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Air Travel With Added Saddle Bags

I travel to the US twice a year. I would absolutely love to be able to afford first class or business seats, but I can’t. I always fly coach. The problem is this: I wear American size 22 pants, not because of my stomach; it’s because of my hips. They’re large and I have huge saddle bags. I always book an aisle seat to make sure only one person will be bothered by my saddle bags. And even though I try to lean to the opposite side as much as I can, part of my thigh still spills into my unlucky seatmate’s seat, making me very embarrassed. I read airlines/flights forums where people who could have easily been my seatmates complain about the passenger of size who should have booked a first class seat and let me tell you: Do I feel guilty! but I just can’t afford it.

So I have a few questions for all of you fellow E-hell readers and Ms E-Hell Dame: what should I do? What’s your opinion on the issue? Do you have similar stories? Have you been the “offender” or the “offended”?

Just for the sake of information: I’m 5″7 and weigh 270 pounds. When I weighed 230 I still had huge saddle bags. 0510-14

I can tell this is going to be a hotly debated post…..everyone keep it civil, please.

When I fly, being a BBW, I always go first class on an aisle seat.   That is just the cost of travel for me, imo.   In the pre-boarding seating area, I can tell which passengers the other flyers are secretly wishing they are not seated next to (squirming children, wailing babies, and big people) and I prefer to be as accommodating as possible to my fellow travelers so that I am not perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices.  In other words, I never presume I am entitled to more seat than I paid for and if any body part of mine has the potential to spill over into someone else’s purchased space, I need to make sure I pay for enough room to contain my body within the zone I “own”.   That may mean flying first class or buying two plane seats side by side.

That isn’t the advice you were probably hoping to read but it’s one I firmly believe in.   And I don’t think this just applies to fat people but physically fit and athletic men or tall people can also easily usurp more space on a plane than their ticket allows.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Magicdomino May 13, 2014, 11:59 am

    I’m sorry, OP, but I’m also going to have to recommend buying two seats in Economy. If the airlines used larger seats and set them farther apart, they would have to raise the prices, at least into Economy Plus territory, possibly close to business class prices. So, if you could get a larger seat, you’d still have to either cut flying from twice a year to once a year, or cut costs in some other area of your life to raise the money. And what happens if the person in the seat next to you is also larger than the seat?

    I wonder though, airlines are becoming notorious for not keeping seats that were bought together, together. It’s not as bad as when your small child is in 26B and you are in 16F, but it doesn’t do you a lot of good, either.

    • Emmy May 14, 2014, 7:52 am

      I thought about that too. When people count on spilling into the seat next to them, the person next to them may be counting on the same thing. It sounds like Southwest has a good policy. The customer can book two seats and then get a refund.

  • Annastasia von Beaverhausen May 13, 2014, 12:07 pm

    I think if the armrest can go down, and you are contained within that space, there’s no need to do anything. I don’t think anyone flies with the expectation that it will be fun or comfortable anymore (unless they book business class or *bliss* first class).

    If you are lifting the armrest to accommodate your hips, then no – sorry OP you either buy a second seat, fly business class or don’t fly.

    Flying is a misery already – I fit reasonably well in a coach class airline seat and it’s still horribly uncomfortable. It’s not fair for a larger person to take over a portion of my already crappy seat by pleading poverty.

    • NostalgicGal May 13, 2014, 11:57 pm

      [like] I agree with your last sentence.

      • Caroline May 14, 2014, 12:16 pm

        what is fair for the larger person? paying double? For the same service?

        • Kara May 14, 2014, 2:45 pm

          It is only the same service if what everyone is purchasing is transportation from place A to place B.

          But that is not the way that airlines sell it. Airlines sell space. A ticket entitles you to a certain amount of vertical and horizontal space, as defined by the dimensions of a single seat. (whether that be a first class seat, a business class seat, or a coach seat)

          A coach seat is 17 inches wide. If you need more then 17 horizontal inches, then you need to purchase the next available increment – 34 inches.

          I don’t see how that is somehow “unfair”. If you need a greater share of available resources, you pay a larger amount of money then someone who needs a lesser share of available resources.

        • Nicole May 14, 2014, 3:54 pm

          She is not paying for a service. She is paying for a unit of space. The airline is in the business of shipping people. Just like you pay more as a box that you ship takes up more units of space – think the flat rates for USPS – you also have to pay more when the person needs more than one unit of space on the airline.

          A simple way to think of it, and this is way over simplified, is they need to have $X in sales to make the flight affordable – if not profitable. They assign every unit of space a worth and they need to have a certain percentage of those units sold to reach $X and be able to afford to fly that plane. Not reaching $X is the reason a lot of flights are cancelled/rescheduled. If a person were to only purchase one unit of space and uses two, then they lose that unit to sell and the price of each unit must correspondingly go up or they can not afford to fly the plane. If they have higher fares than the other airlines to accommodate this loss, then they will lose sales, further reducing profits and ultimately go out of business. Remember, this is not a public service. It is a private, for profit, business. Their primary goal is to make money off of selling their goods.

          Quite simply, if she wishes to occupy two units of space, she must pay for that privilege. I am tall and leggy so I usually pony up for the aisles with extra leg room. It is simply a knowledge of what I must do to accommodate my personal shape and size.

        • LizaJane May 14, 2014, 3:58 pm

          But it’s not the same service if the larger person is gaining 3 inches of the smaller person’s seat. The larger person is getting 6 more inches of seat for the same amount of money. How is that fair?

        • Emmy May 15, 2014, 8:24 am

          If you significantly take over the space allotted, then it isn’t fair to encroach on somebody else’s space. I do feel for larger customers and think that a system should be in place where a larger passenger can reserve 2 seats, but not have to pay for them both if there are empty seats on the flight anyway. It doesn’t seem fair that a larger customer should pay double, but it also isn’t fair to take over space that belongs to another person. Let’s say I decided to travel with a child under 2 on my lap (which is policy for most airlines). I am pretty small myself and am seated next to a small passenger and decide that it is no longer comfortable holding the child on my lap. I seat the child down between me and the other passenger, although it encroaches on her space. Most people would say that would be rude and since both the child and I are taking up more than 1 seat, we should pay for an extra seat (or keep her on my lap) instead of imposing on somebody else. This is true, even if I argue that I couldn’t afford to make the trip if I had to purchase 2 tickets. It isn’t my neighbor’s fault that I am uncomfortable holding the child on my lap or that I can’t afford the trip while paying for 2 tickets and doesn’t give me a right to invade her space. I don’t see how it is different if it is my child’s body or my body imposing on my neighbor’s space.

  • Elizabeth May 13, 2014, 12:14 pm

    I fly alot, for for work and for personal travel. I book my seat and pay for it. I’m not sharing it with the person next to me. I am polite and I am firm. Unfortunately, OP is in a difficult position. First class, business, or two coach seats need to be purchased; if this isn’t in your budget then I guess you cannot make the trip.

    Please do not expect strangers to share their personal space with you. I appreciate your sensitivity and I don’t want you to be embarassed. But you do need to take personal responsibility for your size and the space you need with out infringing on those around you.

  • Dezrah May 13, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I’m a naturally normal weight person (neither skinny nor overweight). I’ve done quite a bit of air travel in my life. Here’s the strange part, even though I’m absolutely certain that I have had people “spill over” into my seat I really can’t recall any particular grievances.

    Why not? I think it’s because this intrusion is modest compared to the many other types of passengers out there. Far worse are people with strong body odor, those who are traveling when obviously sick, those who listen to through their headphones too loudly, etc. Weirdly enough, the physical sensation of constant touch tends to fade from notice fairly quickly for most people (this is why we stop noticing the sensation of our clothes). If you are able to hold still through the trip you can probably minimize the other person’s distraction.

    The worst passengers I ever sat next to were two small teenage girls with voices that were naturally loud and slightly shrill. They chittered the entire 2h+ flight. They were never quite obviously offensive enough for me to say anything and I figured they’d just quiet down after a while but they never did. I’d’ve taken a quiet spill-over seat companion any day.

    My point is, while you may be really worried about what others think of you, it’s probably not nearly as bad as you think.

  • Doris May 13, 2014, 12:37 pm

    So big people should buy two seats? Should a passenger with children buy 20 seats to create a buffer zone between other passengers and his/her children’s possible noise and antics? Should someone with a cold book the entire plane? Perhaps a passenger with body odor, bad breath, or heavy cologne should reserve half a plane for himself/herself? Personally, I despise sitting beside a businessman/woman who insists on invading my space while he/she works from an open briefcase.

    The simple truth is that commercial airplanes are not created with the passengers’ comfort in mind. Before asking larger people to pay for two seats, perhaps airlines should redesign the seating to be comfortable for the average passenger – which might just allow a little “wiggle room” for those bigger than average. More leg room would also be appreciated! At 5’7″, even I have been cramped. One of my friends is well over 6′ and has barely been able to walk off some airplanes because of muscle cramps caused by the contortions necessary to stay seated in such confined space.

    At the very least, it would be nice if airlines would list the dimensions of the seats and the leg room. Possibly with suggested alternative seating if those dimensions are not adequate.

    • Kaymar May 13, 2014, 1:20 pm

      Seatguru.com is your friend. It lists seat configurations and dimensions for all airlines.

      Also, your straw man arguments really miss the point – no one is saying that larger people should be segregated by themselves because their existence is offensive (the gist of your “people with children should buy a 20 seat buffer). If you don’t fit in your seat, you don’t have a right to use someone else’s seat. It is pretty simple.

      • Doris May 13, 2014, 10:26 pm

        Nothing was said about segregating large people because of some imagined offense. The point of what you call “straw man arguments” is if a large person should pay for an extra seat certain other people (those with strong odors, loud or rowdy behavior, etc) should also pay for extra space so that they will not be adversely affecting fellow travelers.

        • Kaymar May 14, 2014, 8:25 am

          The issue is whether the person is using another person’s seat so they can’t fully sit in it. It seems pretty simple. If your lap child is also on my lap, I would say that you should have gotten the child its own seat. Same if it is your own body part. The rest of the arguments are indeed straw man arguments, taking things to ridiculous lengths.

          • Doris May 14, 2014, 8:08 pm

            Thank you, Kaymar, for confirming my position with your statement “taking things to ridiculous lengths.” Perhaps you might be interested in researching the definition of ‘hyperbole.’

            The airline is not actually renting space to passengers, they are providing a service – namely, public transportation. It is ridiculous to expect someone to pay double for the service simply because the airline was unable or unwilling to fulfill its contractual obligations. i.e. Providing the (tolerable) space it has promised a passenger.

            The fault lies with the provider, not the traveler. Desperate to cut costs, airlines have – among other things – reconfigured seating in an effort to sell as many tickets as possible.

            If only we could have the airplanes seen in old films! To be able to recline the seat, stretch out, and sleep in reasonable comfort, darkness, and quiet! To have that wide armrest or, if one chooses not to use the armrest, a seat which actually allows a passenger’s arms to rest beside his/her body!

    • Alicia May 13, 2014, 2:26 pm

      No the person with kids should control their kids, the person with a cold should use medicine and tissues to contain them self, the person with body odor should shower and use deodorant, the person with bad breath should brush their teeth and use gum or mints, the person with heavy cologne should refrain for wearing it. Basic rule is contain yourself to your own purchased space.

    • LizaJane May 13, 2014, 3:24 pm

      You’re right. All that would be nice, but since the airlinare going broke at an alarming rate, I don’t see it happening.
      The OP is asking how to deal with the status quo.

    • Tanya May 13, 2014, 3:33 pm

      I completely agree that airlines should list the dimensions of their seats, so customers are fully aware of what they’re getting into before they purchase a ticket.

      However, with regard to whether passengers with body odor, shrill voices, perfume, etc., should also be required to buy two seats, I would say this: as a passenger, you pay for space in a seat and you are entitled to that space. You do not pay for guaranteed quiet, for a pleasant-smelling space, or for other atmospheric conditions– it’s understood that in those aspects, just as when you’re walking down the street, you’re at the mercy of your surroundings. But you did pay for the physical space within the confines of your seat, and if someone is encroaching on that, you have a legitimate complaint. You have to draw the line somewhere…

    • Marz May 13, 2014, 5:30 pm

      Well said Doris. I would so very very much rather sit next to an excessively large person, than a screaming baby, hyper child (who almost NEVER manage to stay in the confines of their seat despite their small size), some that is wearing strong cologne (guaranteeing me a migraine) , someone sick and sneezing, or someone doing something very loud, or someone drunk. If the goal is that no passenger should be impacting another passenger outside of their own little box of space, then most of the passengers on the plane are already failing dismally…or the planes are just not designed for comfort. Nah, couldn’t be…

    • VictoriaHR May 14, 2014, 11:04 am

      reductio ad absurdum [misuse of], slippery slope fallacy [form of])

      Description: Erroneously attempting to make a reasonable argument into an absurd one, by taking the argument to the extremes.

  • CookieChica May 13, 2014, 12:41 pm

    I do sympathize with the OP as my mom is someone that purchases 2 seats (she fits but feels more comfortable physically and emotionally with 2) but it’s not fair to ask someone to fly internationally in less than a full seat. I’m on the slender side but very twitchy and it’s hard for me to be still that long. If my 17 inches was down to 12, it would be really rough.

  • Postalslave May 13, 2014, 12:44 pm

    OP your best option may be switching airlines. You’ll always run into trouble with discount carriers, Southwest, Thomas Cook, Ryanair etc. If you can afford it, Emirates Air or one of the East Asian airlines are the way to go. Emirates for example: their “coach” is the equivalent of Air Canada’s Execuative class.

    Travelling off season will also help if you can’t switch airlines. Not only is it cheaper but as many other posters mentioned less people equals a better chance of sitting alone.

    And for the record, the blame lies with the airlines. I’m 5’8″ and 130lb and can just fit in budget carrier coach seats.

    • Enna May 14, 2014, 12:27 pm

      This sounds like a good idea.

  • Margaret May 13, 2014, 12:48 pm

    What is the procedure for booking two seats? Do you just fill them both out in your name? Get two boarding passes? Like the commenter above, it never crossed my mind when booking a flight that it was even possible to buy more than one seat per person.

    • The Elf May 13, 2014, 2:37 pm

      It varies by airline, so your best bet is to call and ask.

  • Anonymous May 13, 2014, 12:50 pm

    One small thing about the “buy two seats” solution–how many stories have we heard on here about people buying two seats (either for John Smith and Jane Smith, or John Smith and Legroom Smith), only to find out, upon arrival, that the two seats weren’t together? Now, if John and Jane Smith were a married couple, fine–they’re adults (I hope), and they can sit apart for a few hours. It’s not ideal (especially if it’s their honeymoon), but it’s not disastrous. On the other hand, if John Smith was the father, and Jane Smith was his preschool-aged daughter (or even if she was an adult, but had a fear of flying and couldn’t sit alone), then separate seats would be a problem. In the third scenario, of “John Smith and Legroom Smith,” well, poor John physically CAN’T separate himself from his legs, because he’s a real person (okay, a real person who I just made up), and not a Lego man, so he’d still be stuck sitting in one seat, with his “leg room seat” on the other side of the plane. On a full flight, there’d be no way to fix that, unless other passengers were willing to switch seats, which most of E-Hell agrees is “nice, but not rude if you refuse.” So, honestly, sometimes, there’s no good answer. Two coach seats may be cheaper than one business or first class seat, but reserving them doesn’t do any good if there’s no guarantee that they’ll be together.

    • Kendra May 13, 2014, 1:15 pm

      You know, I didn’t even think of that, but that is a real possibility to be separated from your “I can’t fit in one seat for very good reasons” seat. Maybe you would have to specifiy at booking that you are buying two seats for yourself. On the other hand, what about airlines that don’t have assigned seating. Southwest does circus seating with how far to the front of the line determining the quality of seat you get. In that scenario, what if you have purchased an “overflow” seat only to have someone insist on sitting in it. Or if the flight is overbooked and the FA seats someone in your overflow seat and then your seat mate is annoyed that you are “overflowing” into their space. The seatmate wouldn’t know that you purchased two seats, so they’ll still blame you. It just seems to me that flying is uncomfortable for everyone and, as a PP said, we should just be as courteous as we can to each other and blame the airlines for everyone being so uncomfortable.

      • Rap May 13, 2014, 7:33 pm

        No, I would totally tell the person I was overflowing on to that I had purchased two seats due to my size and the airline was forcing me out of my extra seat to accommodate their flying. Because if I am too big for the seat and do the due diligence to buy an extra seat and the airline overbooks, it is in NO WAY my fault that my seatmate does not have enough room.

        • Kendra May 13, 2014, 9:13 pm

          Unfortunately, that probably won’t help much. The person you are “overflowing” on will likely still be annoyed. They also paid for their ticket and it’s not their fault the airline overbooked the flight either. The point is that someone could do everything “right” and still not have it work out.

          • Rap May 14, 2014, 7:45 am

            Oh I don’t think it would help, I am just not going to be abused by someone feeling I should have bought an extra seat when they’re sitting in the extra seat I paid for. I understand why they might feel put out but they can direct their complaining elsewhere – I bought an extra seat that I am not allowed to have to PREVENT the problem. The flight was overbooked, in that scenario, they can deal with it or they can get off the flight, but they are not griping at me on how squashed they are when I am being charged for space I am not allowed to use.

        • Tracy May 14, 2014, 7:59 am

          You could tell the other person where your overflow seat is and invite them to use it.

        • Emmy May 15, 2014, 8:28 am

          Can an airline just give away a seat that a passenger paid for to another passenger? The airline would be getting 2 fares for 1 seat. That sounds like it should be illegal unless the extra seat is refunded.

          • Rap May 15, 2014, 2:18 pm

            Most airlines will refund the extra seat (I don’t know any that wouldn’t in that situation) but that wouldn’t stop me from loudly letting my annoyed seat mate know I had done my due diligence in purchasing an extra seat that he was now sitting in because the airline had overbooked the flight.

    • MISSMINUTE May 14, 2014, 2:14 am

      I find that a little charm goes a long way. I’m larger – in fact I tend to go on strict diets before I fly so I can fit comfortably into one seat, but as I usually travel with a friend it makes it easier – so I always get an aisle seat. I ensure I get my aisle seat by arriving at least an hour earlier than I need to be at the airport and asking nicely to be issued a pass ahead of the rest of the commuters. I have never been refused.

  • Yarnspinner May 13, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Going off on a tangent for a moment because this situation is so hard to figure. I’d like to offer another perspective if I may.

    In my younger and much slimmer days (and I have never been skinny) I attended a performance of The Lion King at The New Amsterdam Theater. I had to be shoehorned into my seat and even with that, my friends and I were sitting shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. It was not comfy and most of us were not “fat” at that time.

    There were also some folks who were much larger who were also shoe-horned in and I was delighted I wasn’t sitting behind them because they looked like a bunch of football players on the order of Dick Butkus or Alex Karras and presented a very unified front so that anyone sitting behind them hadn’t a hope of seeing much of the play without leaning forward and putting their chins on these people’s shoulders.

    Theater in NYC was already upwards of 150 dollars by then. I felt for the people who were big–and I felt for the people sitting behind them (heck, I felt for anyone sitting behind me…I wasn’t supersized at that time, but I wasn’t skinny)…so, going with the notion that if you are “fat” you should buy a second seat or spring for first class if you are flying….well, should we expect anyone who is plus sized to only spring for the loge seating or to sit in the back of the theater? Should they buy a second seat on either side of them to prevent people the two hours of horror of having to sit next to someone who is overweight and whose arms spill over even if they are clutching their hands in front of them?

    I get it. I have been there. I have had to sit next to friends who make me look like Twiggy and who spill into my seat and into the aisle. I don’t like it. It’s icky….but in an age when we agree that many people simply cannot help their size, how is it right to expect someone who can’t afford it to not fly or to buy extra seats. I can barely afford the $260 a round trip down south costs me…if I had to get first class I would just never see my family again because driving alone that distance is not an option.

    Bus? How on earth is someone who can’t fit on a plane supposed to take a bus that has pretty much the same sized seats as the plane–and for a longer time? Their seat companions aren’t going to be happy, either.

    And then, there’s another question I have: when I flew home this last time, I was thrilled to find that Weight Watchers was paying off: the seat belts are not as tight as they were. I have a long way to go, but just that extra slack in the seat belt was enough to motivate me to keep going.

    HOWEVER, the person sitting next to me was a fairly thin guy who still needed his seat, my seat, the aisle and the seats in front of him. He wasn’t being obnoxious or mean, but for two hours I was crunched up next to my window and would have been nose to nose with the Twilight Zone gremlin if he had landed on our wing. The guy could not, for whatever reason, get comfortable. When he was reading, he was leaning into me. He realized it and tried not to, but pretty soon he would be right back into my space.

    Maybe he should have bought two or three seats since he clearly had ants in his pants and simply couldn’t help himself.

    Would we feel put out if we were sitting next to someone like my friend with a disease that causes them to move uncontrollably? How about getting slapped in the face with a wet lollipop? Should parents of small children purchase the seats around them?

    And you know what? As uncomfortable as it is, I would rather deal with the OP’s saddle bags than the skinny woman with an overdose of perfume, the solidly compact man with really bad breath, or, yes, the teenager who is sulking and sprawled out so he or she takes up all my leg space, too.

    I know it’s hard and I HATE it when it happens to me, and I DON’T mean to sound judge-y and unsympathetic…but are we really telling people “You have an emergency to get to? Your Mom is sick? Tough beans, either go first class or buy two seats so you don’t inconvenience me.”

    ’cause those football players at the production of the Lion King probably should have sat in the back or compensated the people behind them for not seeing the whole play–right?

    • The Elf May 13, 2014, 2:40 pm

      “Bus? How on earth is someone who can’t fit on a plane supposed to take a bus that has pretty much the same sized seats as the plane–and for a longer time? Their seat companions aren’t going to be happy, either.”

      First, both bus and train seats tend to be larger. Not much, but even an inch might make a difference. Second, two bus seats are a lot cheaper than two plane tickets.

      • Nicole May 14, 2014, 12:52 pm

        Not necessarily. I found myself suddenly without a ride home from a road trip over 1000 km from home. I priced out both bus and plane costs, and the flight was almost $50 cheaper and several hours shorter.

  • Daphne May 13, 2014, 12:54 pm

    There’s just no easy or inexpensive way around this problem OP, or everyone would be doing it.

    And maybe you’re not aware of this, but here in the States some airlines are starting to demand that large passengers buy two seats. So really, you could find yourself in quite the conundrum one day stranded on this side of the pond not being able to afford to get home. In other words, they may eventually force you to buy the extra seat anyway, so for your own peace of mind, you really should try and find a way to afford it if your goal is to avoid humiliating situation at the airport. Sorry. 🙁

    And just so you know, I’m no skinny-minnie myself. I don’t travel by plane AT ALL anymore unless it’s business or first class. Which means I travel a lot less than I would like to.

    • Manoomin May 15, 2014, 3:26 pm

      “There’s just no easy or inexpensive way around this problem OP, or everyone would be doing it. ”

      Perfectly said. I agree!

  • Anonymous May 13, 2014, 1:09 pm

    P.S., I always get an aisle seat when I fly, but that’s because I’m claustrophobic, not because of my size.

  • Cora May 13, 2014, 1:10 pm

    Let’s get practical: if you’re flying twice a yer to the U.S., which I think means a pretty long distance, what kind of frequent flyer miles are you getting? Do you have special points programs going? There are some airlines that have bigger seats than others, so it’s worth the research (although I realize you might have already done this). What I’m thinking is that if you can stick with only one or two airlines, you may be able to rack up enough miles/points that a second seat comes free or at really, really low-cost. Also, what about your credit cards? Do any of them have awards programs you can sign up for that include air miles? What about switching over to ones that do? I realize that that is a big, big step, and involves things like interest rates that might not be practicable, but it’s an idea. I had a coworker who had only airline-sponsored credit cards (and who was responsible with them, not a big spender) and she was able to fly from the U.S. to places like Ireland and Venezuela pretty cheaply. If you’re flying twice a year, the points you rack up shouldn’t expire before you’re able to use them. At this point, I don’t see this as an etiquette or weight-related problem, but rather solely a financial one: how do I buy two seats? Research that, and it should help you solve the dilemma.

  • Jenny R May 13, 2014, 1:17 pm

    Taking up part of someone else’s seat on a plane is something no one is going to be happy about. Since the OP is the one with the issue it it their responsibility to change or accommodate their issue themselves. If I am paying thousands to fly to Europe and my seat is partially encroached on I am going to be most unhappy.

    If you take up more than 1 seat then you BUY more than one seat. Alternatives are flying at off times, explaining the problem to airline personnel and asking for an empty seat to be beside you at check in, asking the stewardess if something can be arranged once you have taken off, or driving to your destination. Yes, it costs more but many, many people have issues that cost them more than someone without those issues. I have never been faced with this problem but I understand the anger of having one’s seat partially stolen and I would feel cheated by it. What is really happening is someone is taking their problem and making it *my* problem as well.

    An issue I have not heard raised before but is an issue I have is a history of blood clots. I have to get up at least once every hour, stand and move around in the aisle, to not do so increases my risk of throwing a clot. If there was a really large person that is immobilizing me more than usual then I need to move more than usual because this is a threat to my health not to do so. I always book an aisle seat when I fly for this very reason and if seating is changed for some reason I tell staff exactly why I need an aisle seat and have always ended up with one. Everyone has some sort of issue and usually the airlines will work with you if you communicate the problem clearly to them face to face. What I don’t get to do is not say anything about this issue to the staff and then inconvenience other passengers by my getting up and down so often. *My* problem should not be made into their problem.

    If you need two seats to fly then you need two seats or an upgrade in class. If you can’t afford it then perhaps you don’t go but you don’t get to poach part of another passengers seat because *you* need it. I do not see how anyone could do this and consider themselves to be polite because it’s not polite to take what is not yours.

    To those that might argue that a ticket only entitles me to transportation not space, therefore if someone encroaches on your space thats just tough, I disagree. My ticket has a seat number assigned to it and that means that seat is my assigned space that I purchased and get to use until the plane lands.

  • lnelson1218 May 13, 2014, 1:21 pm

    I will have to agree with many of the posters who sympathize with the OP. Flying is getting more and more expensive for less and less space. And not all of us have control over our sizes nor budgets to upgrade.

    My brother is 6’5″ (and fit) while he doesn’t fly often he does try to get exit row seats so his knees aren’t either in the person’s seat in front of him or in his chest. Hard to do. I am a foot smaller (reasonably fit) than he is and still have the same issue sometimes he does depending on the plane/airlines. So even I will have the issue if the person in front of me lowers their seat, I can see their roots on their head.

    To really avoid spillage, upwards or outwards, the airplanes should be designed with real people in mind.

  • Inga May 13, 2014, 1:25 pm

    The reality remains that some people just cannot afford first class or two seats. For all we know the OP might save all her extra money year round just to afford those two trips on coach. We do not know her reasons for flying to the US two times a year, but since it is so regular and obviously not paid by an employer, I’m thinking it might be to visit family. And, while I do agree that she should do what is possible within her means to avoid taking up other peoples’ room (booking an aisle seat, fly at times when there are less other passengers), forsaking one of two yearly visits to see family is too much to ask in order to be polite to a stranger for a few hours.

    And yes, being the other passenger in such situations is no fun. But, it’s life. Sometimes we will all be inconvenienced one way or another. And no matter how hard we try to not inconvenience anyone ourselves, there will probably also be a time in life when WE are the ones inconveniencing others. So, when I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, that I know the other person did not cause with the purpose of making me uncomfortable, I do my best to suck it up and hope for better luck next time. And hope that when it’s my turn to be the “bad one”, the other person will be as forgiving to me.

    • Tracy May 14, 2014, 6:51 am

      No, forsaking one of two yearly visits is not too much to ask. How many people don’t get to see family for years at a time because they cannot afford it?

      And encroaching on someone else’s seat is not an inconvenience. It is a painful intrusion. I have had entire vacations ruined because I was in so much pain after having to squeeze into what was left of my seat by a bigger passenger sitting beside me. And that was after only a few hours on a plan. Imagine how someone feels after being squished for an entire international flight?

      And larger people say that they hate how everyone looks at them, hoping they aren’t being seated next to the large passenger. How do you think it feels being the other side? I’m the little person that gets looked at by other passengers that hope they can take my space. And so I get to be contorted into a chair by broad shoulders leaning into my seat or someone hogging the armrest and beyond it.

      • Library Diva May 14, 2014, 9:37 am

        Wow, that’s cold, Tracy. Miss out on family time to avoid inconveniencing someone else? That’s taking it a bit far. Yes, everyone should be as polite and courteous as possible at all times, but there’s a line. Expecting that level of self-effacement from a stranger is a bit ridiculous.

        I used to be quite small, and flew all the time. I never experienced anyone looking at me like my extra half-inch of seat space was a porterhouse steak. If you were in genuine pain, you should have spoken up and asked to be moved. You don’t get to demand that someone else not fly –for whatever reason — so others can be more comfortable. If you find flying that dreadful, maybe it’s you who should be taking the bus or the train — after all, you are the only factor in the equation that you can control.

        • Tracy May 14, 2014, 2:58 pm

          I haven’t flown in years because it’s so miserable and I can’t afford to do it comfortably. And it’ll probably be years more before I fly again because I’m not going to take my kid on a plane until he can handle it. I would love to go visit my family up north, but I’m not going to unleash a 4 month old on a plane full of innocent people.

          • BellyJean May 15, 2014, 11:23 am

            Ditto that, Tracy. I had to cancel my Christmas trip home last year (2013), because last September (2103) I flew to a city 4 hours close by (for a larger family event), and met with my parents there. I won’t be going back until at least December this year. I cannot afford two trips home. That would be nice, but it’s not a possibility.

      • Inga May 14, 2014, 9:49 am

        I dare say that being looked at with a look of horror and disgust as people pray they won’t have to sit next to your big self is a bit worse than having people look at you and hope they will be so lucky as to have you as their next-to passenger. And btw, I am a little person myself, and although I fly A LOT I have never experienced this? But hey, if one is on the look-out for something to make one’s flight miserable, I am sure one can always find something.

        • Tracy May 14, 2014, 2:59 pm

          Yes, because being obviously squeezed out of part of my seat is looking for something to make me miserable. I could understand that comment if I was complaining about the ice being too cold in my drink or there being one cube too many. But this is having part of my seat taken by a stranger. It’s kind of noticable as evidenced by all the others here that have had the same problem.

          • Inga May 15, 2014, 4:06 am

            I was referring to your complaint about big people looking at you, hoping to get to sit next to you. Which means, even if you actually end up next to two thin people and havea pleasant flight, you still manage to find something to complain about.

  • Cat May 13, 2014, 1:26 pm

    It takes two to tango. The American public is growing wider and the American airline industry have reduced the size of the seats in aircraft. We are going to have to shrink the Americans or to widen the seats. You can’t put a size ten foot in a size five shoe and be happy for very long.
    It seems to me that the airliners should have a variety of seats in different widths. One would pay more in accordance with the width of seat desired. Few people actually need two full seats. One and a half is fine. So some rows might have only two seats together rather than three and they would be more costly, but not as much as two full seats.
    How about family sections that have seats to accommodate children? They don’t need adult sized seats. Allow the family to sit together. Children’s seats could cost a bit less.
    Let’s quit trying to make what does not fit, fit and to price things accordingly.

    • VictoriaHR May 14, 2014, 11:20 am

      The problem with this is that people who don’t *need* the extra space would sign up for the extra space seats because they *want* extra space, leaving nothing available for the plus-sized passengers. And if they reserve those seats for only larger passengers, what happens if no one buys them? The airline loses money. I guess the airline could offer people an upgrade for X number of dollars on the day of the flight if no one buys those seats?

      • Cat May 14, 2014, 8:51 pm

        I hate to think of having “size police” who would inspect your caboose to see if you qualify for purchasing the extra space; and it is true that thin people might want to pay extra for the extra room.
        There’s no perfect solution to a problem, but it is a service industry. It needs to be a bit more accommodating than having wide people cram into narrow seats or having thin people get far more intimate with large, total strangers than they wish.
        Every business, whether service or goods, will sometimes lose money for one reason or another. It’s part of doing business. Not all flights are always filled and sometimes the airlines sell more seats than they have and people get upset.
        Our obesity problem is growing (no pun intended) and the current situation will worsen. I’d like to think that the airlines are as concerned about our safety and comfort as you are about their losing money on unsold seats.

    • crebj May 14, 2014, 7:32 pm

      I like the idea of smaller and less costly seats for children. It will raise a question about small adults, but why not play with the idea? Kudos.

  • Nopasaurus May 13, 2014, 1:38 pm

    I have to respectfully disagree with the people saying “buy first class” or “buy two seats”. Because, if I took that advice, I wouldn’t have seen most of my family for 7 years. My parents moved abroad a bunch of years back. My partner’s father moved abroad to a different country a while before that. And about 4 years ago his sister moved to a third country with her two children. And during that entire time, I’ve been fat. At no point in that time have I had the sort of money that would allow me to pay for a first class flight – as it is, we visit our parents separate from each other. And that’s just with flights that even HAVE an upgrade option. The one airline that flies from the airport nearest me to where my parents are doesn’t have a first class section on their aircraft. There is a more distant airport which has multiple airlines to choose from, but just the added cost of getting there would be a strain as it is.

    Airlines have been shrinking their seats for years, to the point where economy class seats are no longer comfortable for anyone. In fact, to the point where I seriously side-eye the continued advice to adopt a brace position in emergencies, because I’m not sure there is enough space between rows for that to even be possible for the average-height person any more.

    Everyone who books a flight does so knowing they are going to be crammed into an overcrowded seat next to a completely random pair of strangers. You’ll be sitting next to people who might be fat, or long-legged, or broad-shouldered, or who have weak bladders and need to go to the toilet often, or who get nauseous during the flight, or who have health conditions that cause odour issues, or who have an infant with them that cries the whole way. It’s cattle class, intended to get you from point A to point B. If someone taking a flight requires that they be guaranteed comfort during it, the airlines have made the option available for those people to purchase first class tickets.

    • Daphne May 13, 2014, 6:32 pm

      Yikes. Remind me to stay home whenever you decide to travel! 😐

      • Caroline May 13, 2014, 11:45 pm

        And remind us not to travel when YOU are traveling. Rude.

        • Daphne May 14, 2014, 12:45 pm

          Don’t worry, I’ll be in first class! 🙂

          • crebj May 14, 2014, 7:33 pm

            Surely not, but that last remark.

          • Caroline May 14, 2014, 11:24 pm

            At least your seat will have class.

          • Daphne May 21, 2014, 6:32 am

            I’m sorry to offend you. I was trying to keep it light.

    • Tracy May 14, 2014, 6:59 am

      Did you know, way back when, people would move away from their family and would most likely never get to see them again. They were lucky if they were literate and could write letters to each other. These days we have skype, facetime, all sorts of ways to see and hear each other. Flying is not a right you have. I now have a nearly 4 month old son and haven’t gotten to see much of my family for the last few years because we live a 10 hour drive from them and we can’t afford the time off or the flights. So, we don’t fly. If you can’t afford to buy a seat that fits you, you don’t fly.

      We buy a seat knowing we will be crammed into a seat next to random strangers. We don’t buy a seat to give half of it to random strangers. If you are taking up someone else’s seat that they paid for, you are stealing.

      And how hypocritical are you? If someone wants comfort they have to pay for a more expensive seat? They don’t expect comfort. They expect to get the seat they paid for. Not to give half of it to their neighbor. There is a difference between being uncomfortable because the seat suck and being uncomfortable because someone else is pressing on you.

    • VictoriaHR May 14, 2014, 11:22 am

      So the larger folks have the right to say “No, I cannot afford to buy a first class ticket, deal with me.” But the regular-sized folks don’t have a right to say, “No, I paid for my ticket and I am entitled to all of the space in this seat, and I cannot afford a first class ticket either” ??

      • admin May 14, 2014, 2:13 pm

        Right. I’m not getting this perspective that believes an overly large person is entitled to more seat than they paid for but the average sized traveler is not entitled to all of the seat they paid for.

        • Rap May 14, 2014, 4:22 pm

          Well, I don’t think this is an etiquette issue so much as its an issue of the airlines not being willing to address the issue their silence is creating.

          The problem, at the end of the day, is that the airlines don’t want to to open the can of worms that size restrictions would bring. They don’t want to lose any revenue and they don’t want anyone thinking “Airline X charges fatties more” so they’re going to see a four hundred pound man who is as wide as two seats and not say anything at boarding because they’re counting on other passengers being accomadating. If I read OP’s letter correctly, she fits in the standard coach seat with the arms down. Thats the airline’s criteria. If the airline isn’t telling her to buy another ticket, if she is compliant with their policy and they are not in any way providing guidlines that say she is NOT compliant, or stopping her from boarding, they are saying she is entitled to her seat with no penalty.

          I don’t know many people who cheerfully assess a monetary penalty to themselves when they don’t have to. And the airline, who is the final arbitrator, is the one saying the large passengar is entitled to space they haven’t paid for when they don’t have a policy in place or don’t enforce existing policies. And until the airlines are forced to handle it, we can call it rude for the large to not buy a second seat but its not going to stop because they aren’t violating any airline policies.

          The airlines, by not enforcing any size or seating policy consistently, are the ones encouraging the larger passengers to not buy extra seats. Similarly, the airlines have a policy of charging for baggage but since they don’t enforce it consistently, or at all, and reward people who who up with two or three giant bags at boarding with free baggage, they’re endorsing people violating their policy.

          • PhDeath May 15, 2014, 12:27 pm

            Well said, Rap.

            Lack of enforcement is a serious issue and, as you point out, likely the MOST serious issue in this debate. I’m in the minority, though, in that I actually feel for the airlines – the public relations nightmare they’d face if they publicly, outspokenly addressed their policies is likely considerable.

            I think, too, that there is sometimes a lack of awareness of size, and what might constitute “oversize” in a flight setting. As America/Western cultures get larger, one’s sense of what constitutes “large” skews accordingly. I absolutely believe those who say they had no idea that they wouldn’t fit into a standard airline seat until they boarded the plane.

            This reinforces others’ suggestions of “If in doubt, call ahead.”

        • Tanya May 14, 2014, 7:45 pm

          So well put. This clinches it in a nutshell!

  • Livvy17 May 13, 2014, 1:59 pm

    One more thing I’d like to add to ALL fliers – most of the time, big or small, we wind up having to bump up against each other in planes. For this reason – PLEASE WEAR LONG SLEEVES AND LONG PANTS. I understand that we all have to squeeze in, but trying to duck someone’s hairy leg or arm adds an extra icky level to the thing. If you’re warm, there are plenty of lightweight (like linen, or athletic mesh) options.

    Here are some tips I’d offer, for everyone!!
    1. Aisle, or window….Window has a little extra room to lean away from other passengers, which can also help minimize hip issues.
    2. bring a shawl – most people are wider at the shoulder, if you wrap yourself up a bit on top (like a baby’s swaddling), to allow your seatmates a bit more room / armrest, they will mind it far less if you’re hip to hip. I find this also helps me sleep easier, if my arms aren’t flopping around.
    3. If at all possible, sleep, or move as little as possible. (A cocktail and a benadryl works wonders, and also seems to fend off some of the sinus/ear issues from flying, I find) Even if you’re encroaching, if you’re not banging around, it will be easier to handle.
    4. Pick seats at the back of the plane – much less likely to be filled, you’ll have a better chance of being next to an empty seat. Same goes for off-hours / unpopular days to fly.
    5. Go to the bathroom before you get on the plane / don’t drink much if you don’t have the aisle seat.

    And in general – try to be considerate and compassionate as possible. We’re almost all grumpy when we fly, a little consideration and caring helps us all.

    • Kendra May 13, 2014, 8:49 pm

      With respect, Livvy, but that is rather bad advice in terms of surviving an accident. Also, mixing alcohol with medication is always a bad idea. I do try to be a good fellow passenger, but not at the risk of my life and safety should the worst happen.

      • Livvy17 May 14, 2014, 11:31 am

        I doubt any of my advice would seriously disadvantage someone in case of an accident, which is ridiculously unlikely, (the drive to the airport is MUCH more likely to kill a person) and if it happens so quickly that you can’t unwrap yourself or rouse yourself from sleep, it’s likely not survivable anyway. Regarding the medication, certainly that is each person’s choice based on their own health/situation and knowledge of their own reactions to medications / alcohol. I amend my advice – just take the Benadryl.

        • Kendra May 14, 2014, 3:03 pm

          “if it happens so quickly that you can’t unwrap yourself or rouse yourself from sleep, it’s likely not survivable anyway” This is called the Myth of Hopelessness, and it is simply not true.
          Yes, a plane crash is very unlikely, something like 1 in 60 million, but they do happen. If a plane is going to crash, it is most likely to crash on either take-off or landing. When they do happen, they happen that fast. According to Ben Sherwood, it’s not the crash that kills you,the survival rate in plane crashes is 95.7%, what kills you is not being able to get out of the plane fast enough. You have, at most, 90 seconds to get out of a plane before you are overcome by smoke and fumes. If you waste some of those seconds trying to unwrap yourself and wake up enough to figure out what is going on you are much less likely to survive in the event of an accident. My point is, if it is rude for me to “spill” into your space, isn’t it just as rude for you to possibly put my life in danger, however slim the likelihood?

    • KA May 13, 2014, 10:20 pm

      I remember a particularly awful flight from Vegas to Denver on a budget airline. The seats are plenty wide, but the seat in front of you is RIGHT in your face. I was claustrophobic and miserable the whole flight, and it’s not even that long. I took a Vicodin and drank a Bloody Mary before boarding the return flight and it was the best flight EVER.

      • Kendra May 14, 2014, 12:00 pm

        There is a chapter in Ben Sherwood’s book “The Survivor’s Club” on how to survive a plane crash. Granted, planes don’t crash often. You have a greater chance of winning the lottery than being in a plane crash. However, people DO win the lottery. One of the things about drinking, especially mixing alcohol with medication, is that in the very unlikely event of the plane crashing you become a danger to not only yourself but you are a danger to others. Just so you can be a little more comfortable?

        • NostalgicGal May 14, 2014, 11:07 pm

          I flew in and out of SFO (San Francisco) the week after that plane clipped the seawall last year. The booking agents and boarding agents were being a little hyper about anyone they put on the emergency rows-they were eyeballing for size, age, and general mobility; I was dealing with flight delays and had to reassure them that I understood totally what getting the window seat in that row meant; and they were reassigning those rows as people checked in. I’m sure that faded after a while. I do travel in cotton, it’s more comfortable, and yes I’m covered at least from elbows to ankles. I don’t want to do meds other than ginger pills, and no alcohol when flying, that is enough of a closed dry environment to deal with, I don’t want anything else ‘in my way’ until I get out of there!

  • Lisa May 13, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Here’s a question…

    What if a large person were to fly for business on the company dime? Unless he/she is a big wig in the company, the organization is not going to be paying for 2 seats OR first class!

    That’s a situation where one could be sitting next to someone who is spilling over into their seat, through no fault of the larger person.

  • Rap May 13, 2014, 2:13 pm

    “but are we really telling people “You have an emergency to get to? Your Mom is sick? Tough beans, either go first class or buy two seats so you don’t inconvenience me.””

    Yeah. I am a little uncomfortable with the “tough, if you are fat, buy two tickets or accept you can never fly” attitude in part because I don’t see it applied to people who are “thin” but too built in the shoulders to keep from horning in on someone else’s seat. I don’t see the 6’4 football players told “Keep your shoulders in your area and if you can’t you have to buy two tickets” – even though this is actually as uncomfortable and they certainly don’t get the “Buy two tickets or first class or don’t go – your size is your problem and you do need to pay to not inconvienence others” attitude flung at them.

  • PWH May 13, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Hi OP,

    I wish there was a solution that would be financially viable, as well as comfortable for you and your fellow travelers. Unfortunately in this day and age, those options just don’t exist with air travel. I am a 5’6 woman who is a size 16/18. I’ve travelled a couple times recently and have found that seat sizes aren’t even consistent from plane to plane or between airlines. I took the same airline to a tropical destination and back. On the way there, I was comfortable in my seat with the arm rest down, no problem, no spillage. On the way back was another story. I could barely get the arm rest down and it was exacerbated by the larger gentleman sitting next to me. Luckily it was only a three hour flight and I was able to put the arm rest up between my husband and I and shimmy over (He’s skinny). Admin has provided some good advise. Book early to expand your seat options and consider saving up for two seats in the future. If you are going to be flying somewhere, best to fly in comfort.

  • Kirstenh May 13, 2014, 3:01 pm

    I feel for your OP, but just because you can’t afford something does not mean it is okay to take it from someone else.

    • RC May 14, 2014, 12:27 am

      This sums up my opinion too, nice, short and sweet!

  • Stacey Frith-Smith May 13, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Seat “spillage” is an issue for all kinds of reasons on flights. But there is a line. You know if you’ve crossed it because you will feel uncomfortable and so will those around you. It might be better to travel once yearly and stay longer, using the savings towards a better seat, extra seat or upgrade in class. People who travel all do so for reasons that are urgent. You won’t see anyone dropping cash on airline tickets without serious plans for work, recreation, or family matters. Since it’s a matter of some urgency that gets all of us into a plane, each is entitled to full use of our (sometimes meager) accommodations. Other posters are right that noise, odors, extra belongings that aren’t stowed away, poor manners, contagious illness, and “space hogging” of armrests, leg space and full seat reclining are also problems. You, like most people, aren’t trying to make it more difficult for others. It’s just not always easy to fly.

    • Brit May 14, 2014, 3:12 am

      I think all the posters saying ‘don’t fly’ or ‘fly less’ are being incredibly presumptuous. We don’t know why the OP flies. She may have no choice.

      And if it came down to seeing my family twice a year, or not seeing them becaue my hips squashed someone else for the flight and I can’t afford another seat, I’d be on that plane. I might not feel great about it, I’d apologise to the person next to me, but I’d be on it. Maybe some folk here would put etiquette over the need to see their family in that situation, but I’ll be honest, I would not.

      • Rap May 14, 2014, 9:47 am

        I ran the numbers in a different post, not sure if it was approved – in order to hit proper ettiquette, the OP is being asked, on a trans atlantic flight, to pay at least 1241 dollars more per flight, even though she can fulfill the airline’s requirement of sitting with the arm rests down.

        I prefer to fly first class, I admit it, but I don’t think people are understanding the money involved and I really don’t see the broad shouldered and tall folks (who are just as likely to squash and impede smaller passengars) to never fly unless they’re willing to buy extra space.

  • lolkay May 13, 2014, 3:14 pm

    I’m a tiny girl. As in, I never weighed more than 104 lbs in my short life of less than 25 years. Seats never were a problem for me.

    But I totally, disagree with the Admin and the others saying the OP should buy first class or the like. Maybe she HAS to travel twice a year , and if funds are not exactly the best, you need to stick with coach.

    I think airlines need to redesign their seating. Tall and/or bigger people aren’t always flowing with money, and they deserve as much comfort as I do in coach. To say that first class for OP and the like is just “the cost of traveling” seems just lame to me. Its not fair,, and considering my mother always had a bit extra to love on her, I think if someone said that to her, it shows lack of class and consideration and is just an hidden insult.

  • White Lotus May 13, 2014, 3:18 pm

    I am small, petite, even, and I just barely fit in a coach seat. I have a handicap that makes it impossible for me to sit still for any length of time without serious wiggling and repositioning, which is impossible in a coach seat. I can do it for short flights — couple-three hours — but not a long-haul. Two coach seats isn’t a good solution because the bottoms of coach seats are rounded to cup the posterior of the sitter. One with a larger posterior will be on the ridge between the seats and that is — I know from trying to sleep in my own and an unoccupied seat — not comfortable or satisfactory at all.
    What I do is have a miles credit card, which I use for everything and pay in full each month. I use miles for upgrades. OP, that may help you out. It reduces the cost significantly (they now make you pay for upgrades in addition to using miles now) so it is possible to fly business for the cost of two low-ball coach seats, anyway. I fly enough to get automatic upgrades with full-fare coach, too, though that costs more than the miles-plus-money upgrades. I have been trapped between two large people and felt like I was drowning, but there really wasn’t anything they or I could do. Full, one-class plane. We had to breathe in shifts.
    FWIW, this is my solution to being generally unable to fly coach due to seat size, and it might help you, too.

  • Denise May 13, 2014, 4:05 pm

    We have three children we fly with. The youngest does not require a seat, however, purchasing a seat makes a huge difference not only in our comfort but in the comfort of those around us. It would be far more affordable to purchase 4 seats and sit the 5 of us into them, but why should someone else suffer to save us money?

    This means we travel less and only when we can afford to purchase everyone a seat. It means we do not visit family as much as we’d like, but that’s the price of travel.

    It is unfair and unjust for someone else to pay for any part of your travel. If you cannot afford to purchase the two seats, you cannot afford to travel. It really is that simple.

    • Brit May 14, 2014, 3:12 am

      What if she HAS to go for business? What then?

      • Denise May 14, 2014, 10:32 am

        Then the cost of business is another ticket. It’s rather simple. Her need to travel doesn’t negate needing enough space to do so. The idea that because she HAS to travel for business means that she is entitled to a part of MY seat is ridiculous.

        • Caroline May 14, 2014, 12:21 pm

          take it up with the airlines who design the seats, not with the other victim of their thoughtless design. Trust me, we fatties don’t like being squished into those seats either.

  • Jays May 13, 2014, 4:42 pm

    I was going to type out a fairly long message.

    But I think I’m just going to say that I agree with Yarnspinner and leave it at that.

  • Freq Flyer May 13, 2014, 5:52 pm

    A few suggestions for the larger person who must, for economic reasons, fly Coach.

    Most airlines put a seatmap on line for every flight, up until the flight departs. You can usually look at a seatmap for any flight, even if you are not booked on that flight. Make a list of flights that you might find attractive, then for a week or two look at their seatmaps on the day of that flight’s departure. Check to see which ones have lighter loads with more vacant seats, by time of day or day of the week. The seatmap at the time of departure is most valuable.

    Next, when you buy your tickets, see about getting tickets that can be changed for a different flight. You may have to pay a bit more for a not-so-deep-discount Coach, but in a higher booking class you can switch to a lighter loaded flight on the day of departure, if necessary. You might notice that Flight 123 is packed, while Flight 456 leaving two hours later is 3/4 full. With a changeable ticket, you can call and switch over to Flight 456, and ask for a seat with an empty seat next to you. American Airlines offers these higher priced booking classes with fewer restrictions right on the website with the more restricted fares.

    Once you buy the ticket, watch the seatmap like a hawk, and move your own seat assignment if someone takes a middle seat next to you. Moving towards the back usually helps; not too many like to sit in the back. I’ve had a whole row to myself in the back while others are jammed in middle seats in the front.

    Check out the prices of extra-legroom seats (Main Cabin Extra, Economy Plus, etc) and see if they fit your budget. Similarly, exit-row seats and bulkhead seats have a lot more legroom and allows you and the seatmate to squirm into a comfortable position.

    Look for seats where the tray table folds into the seat armrest, rather than folding down from the seat in front of you. These seats have “immovable armrests” as noted in SeatGuru. You will have a tiny bit less seat, measured horizontally from side to side, but the solid armrest will prevent the butt spill-over. You will be squished, but your seatmate will not. Ideal seats are bulkhead where most of the plane is 3-3, but the first row or two are 2-2.

    Sign up for a frequent flyer program and concentrate your flying on that one airline. Get the affiliated credit card (not so easy in Europe, I’m afraid) so you can get miles from everyday purchases. Look carefully at the requirements for “elite” frequent flyer status. If you fly enough, you can get “elite” status and get upgrades for little or no extra cost. I now have 16 “e-stickers” for free upgrades in my Aadvantage account.

    I have “elite” status on American Airlines (Lifetime Gold). Here is what I get: One free checked bag (domestic), priority boarding and check-in, upgrade e-stickers, 25% bonus miles when I fly. I also have the affiliated credit card, so get miles even when I don’t fly, plus double miles when I do. My credit card is about $5,000/month so that’s 5,000 miles for just living my normal life. I pay it off in full every month without fail, so there’s no cost to me. (If you don’t pay off your credit card balances in full every month without fail, then please ignore this advice.)

    The upshot is that once I got this “elite” status, I have a surplus of miles. I use them to upgrade.

    Think: I buy a deep-discount Coach ticket, then use miles and co-pay to upgrade. What do I get? I get a First/Business class seat, access to the airline Admirals Club “VIP” lounge when flying internationally, I get the miles for flying, plus my 25% bonus miles, plus the double miles from the credit card. Essentially, I get a Business Class seat for the price of deep-discount Coach plus the co-pay and miles I collect anyway.

    A real life example: I just bought a ticket for later in the year, Los Angeles to Germany. The price of the ticket was $2000, including the deep-discount Coach ($1300), upgrade co-pay ($700) , taxes included. I paid 50,000 miles for the upgrade, but will get back 2000 from the credit card purchase, another 2000 because the credit card doubles airline purchases, plus 10,000 for the flight (round trip) plus 2,500 bonus for being Aadvantage Gold. That’s 16,500 miles back or a net cost of 33,500 miles. A Coach award ticket for the same day same flight would have cost me 40,000 miles, plus taxes and fees (~$200) and I would get no miles back from the flight itself.

    Business Class on the exact same flight would be about $6,000, restricted/nonrefundable or about $12,000 unrestricted/refundable. I’m in the exact very same Business Class seat for $2000, and miles that I get anyway for just living my normal life.

    Finally, buying two seats together can be problematic if the airline reassigns the seats, and they do that from time to time. Your extra seat might be two rows down. There is no guaranteed that two seats bought together and assigned together in advance of the flight will actually be together. They might reassign you due to a seat being out of order, a small child needing to sit next to the parent, a change of equipment or any number of reasons. If the flight is overbooked, and they have to “bump” passengers (voluntary or involuntary denied boarding), your extra seat might be the “bumped” passenger and you would only get a refund for the extra seat and nothing for the inconvenience and discomfort of flying without the extra seat and extra butt room.

    • A different Tracy May 14, 2014, 8:06 am

      “Look for seats where the tray table folds into the seat armrest, rather than folding down from the seat in front of you. These seats have “immovable armrests” as noted in SeatGuru. You will have a tiny bit less seat, measured horizontally from side to side, but the solid armrest will prevent the butt spill-over. You will be squished, but your seatmate will not. Ideal seats are bulkhead where most of the plane is 3-3, but the first row or two are 2-2.”

      Now THAT is some useful advice!

    • Kendra May 14, 2014, 11:19 pm

      This is all very good advice, and I honestly had no idea I could check the seating chart on a plane until I read your post. That said, when I do fly, I usually go Southwest. When I have flown, Southwest didn’t assign seating. Your seating was determined by where you were placed in the boarding line. The closer to the front of the line you are, the more choices you have in seating. If you end up further back in line, then your seating choices are more limited.

  • Phil Varlese May 13, 2014, 6:36 pm

    I’ve ridden on buses & trains & planes all of my life. I’ve come to understand that when you buy a ticket for any of them, it’s so you can be taken from point A to point B. There are times when you’re comfortable, and times when you aren’t.
    Despite many of the replies here, I don’t believe for a moment that anyone has “suffered” while traveling. I’m an average sized guy, about 6′ and about 22o lbs. I’ve been seated next to a woman who wore a size zero, and a guy who weighed well over 500 lbs. (on a flight from NY to San Antonio) There was no difference for me. I was raised to be a courteous traveler, and that little extra that comes over the seat shouldn’t be a big deal.
    It’s not about “comfort” for most of you…..it’s about fat bias, plain and simple.

    • AD May 13, 2014, 10:03 pm

      This is why I travel by train, when I can afford to travel at all.
      This right here.
      Yes, people are entitled (a word that is commonly negative on this site, but suddenly permissible in respect to fat people) to not want an intrusive seatmate, and we fat folk by and large attempt to be respectful of their space and modify where we can to suit them. I’ve seen a lot of people here offer helpful hints, tips, and tricks in answer to the OP’s question. Sadly, most of them didn’t come from Admin.
      I see and understand your point, Dame, but I’m vastly dismayed by your delivery. I guess everyone has off days, and your point is valid, but to tell a person that they don’t deserve to see their family because they’re fat? For shame! To permit it to be said on your site, without rising to at least repeat your warning to be civil? A thousand times worse. It makes your request for civility look, at best, like the empty words politicians so often utter to make themselves look good. You remind me, at least in this case, of the person who says, “I’m not racist, but…” Those people are about to say something horribly racist and are just making themselves feel better.
      What’s going on here isn’t racism. It’s fat-shaming, which is just another form of bullying, and you’re allowing it. To borrow a quote from another popular site, “I am disappoint.”

      • admin May 14, 2014, 6:38 am

        I never said the OP doesn’t deserve to see her family because she is fat. You are creating a fallacious straw man argument of the kind that starts flame wars. Further, I’m not sure we were ever told by the OP why she flies internationally twice a year. She does need to prioritize her savings if travel is important to her so that she can afford to fly with two seats or first class. I’ve spoken to far too many people who claim to be so cash strapped they cannot possibly afford to do X yet when I suggest that they eliminate that $4.00/day Starbucks latte habit for a few months, save that money instead, I get the blank stare as if living without a latte every day is a deprivation far too heinous to contemplate. I save for my travel and I expect everyone else to as well. Just because genetics and life style choices has broadened my horizons does not mean I get to use 1 1/4 seats when I paid for one.

        • Freq Flyer May 14, 2014, 8:25 am

          ” I’ve spoken to far too many people who claim to be so cash strapped they cannot possibly afford to do X yet when I suggest that they eliminate that $4.00/day Starbucks latte habit for a few months, save that money instead, I get the blank stare as if living without a latte every day is a deprivation far too heinous to contemplate. ”

          You get the blank stare because it’s none of your business how someone else allocates their resources. Better to say “Tsk, there are plenty of things I can’t afford, either. Maybe someday we with will both win the Lotto.”

          • admin May 14, 2014, 11:10 am

            I get the blank stare because they whined to me about it thus opening the conversation for me to comment that a solution to their dilemma exits or I have been directly solicited for the funds.

        • Anonymous May 14, 2014, 12:02 pm

          Hey Jeanne, did the OP tell you where she was from, even if she didn’t tell us? I’m asking because, flying to the U.S. isn’t “international” for everyone–I live in Canada, and so, flying to the U.S. isn’t really a big deal for me. As for the $4.00 a day Starbucks latte habit, not everyone goes to Starbucks on a daily basis, or buys expensive clothing or jewelry or luxury vehicles. Maybe flying to see her family is the only luxury, or one of few luxuries, in the OP’s life, and there’s really nothing else to cut. I’ve been in that situation–living in a sharehouse, taking the free bus or walking because it was all the transportation I could afford, eating mostly PBJ’s and pasta with frozen vegetables and canned chick peas. I was still happy, because I had a job that I loved, and I was surrounded by friends, but if I’d been living that kind of lifestyle at the OP’s size, and I managed to save up enough money for a plane ticket to see someone I hadn’t seen in a while, only to arrive at the airport to find that the plane seats had shrunk to the point where I wouldn’t fit, I wouldn’t have appreciated being told to pay extra or go home, but I probably would have done the latter. I mean, I totally get that the airlines are selling “X amount of space on Y flight” (as Tanya already said), but the reality is, passengers don’t see it that way–they see themselves as purchasing “a seat on the airplane,” and “transportation to Z destination.” If they’re forced into a situation that’s the equivalent of an average-sized adult having to squish themselves into a kiddie chair, then they’re not REALLY getting “a seat on the airplane.” But, here’s the disjunct–the airlines are selling “X amount of space,” BUT they have to sell it to the public as “Transportation to your destination.” If they’re smart about it, they’ll also say that Their Airlines are more efficient, or more caring, or what have you, than Other Guy Airlines……and, if they say that, then they have to follow through on it, because you know what? All of those bigger-than-17-inches-wide people, have purchasing power, that they can easily take to the other guy. Many of these bigger-than-17-inches-wide-people also have Internet connections, and access to such sites as Yelp, Ripoff Report, NotAlwaysWorking, and Etiquette Hell, where they can report their experiences, whether or not they actually fly. I mean, they could easily go online and say, “I tried to book a flight with Blahblah Airlines, and they told me I had to book to seats because I’m 17.5 inches wide, and their seats are only 17.” So, I think it behooves the airlines to at least try to cater to the public, before the public……goes public. Does that make sense? There might even be other ways for airlines to save money–for example, dare I suggest toning down the TSA screening a bit, so they wouldn’t have to cram so many people on each flight?

        • AD May 14, 2014, 10:50 pm

          I didn’t say you said it. I said you allowed it to be said, and didn’t bother to follow the statement with a repeat of your warning to be nice. I don’t buy $4 lattes. When I’m done with paying rent, phone, electric, and trash, I have about $20 to buy toilet paper, soap, and other necessities. By your argument, I would have to do without basic hygiene. I’m poor, so I don’t normally travel, but if I were to be inclined to fly, I must ask- Are you perhaps suggesting that I should become one of the obnoxious smelly travelers everyone dreads simply for the privilege of flight?

      • The Elf May 14, 2014, 7:28 am

        “Deserve” has nothing to do with it. This is a dollars and cents issue.

        • Rap May 14, 2014, 8:57 am

          Well, lets look at dollars and cents.

          And remember, the airline, the real final arbitrator, does not require the OP to buy an extra ticket as she can sit with the arm rests down. So lets look at what she’s expected to spend in order to be courteous.

          I went on priceline. I chose a NYC to London round trip and set it about four months out. (The op said she travels to the US and I went with a popular destination – costs will be higher if she’s not in Western Europe.)

          Economy class round trip starts at 1241.00. It was more on average 1400 or so but lets assume the OP is fine with Icelandic Air. Now there might be some deals on the second seat, but I am looking at raw numbers. To not be rude, the OP has to spend at least 2482.00 dollars for her flight, even though she meets airline criteria for one seat. The lowest first class ticket I found on the same route was 3593.00.

          And since admin is raising the “cut down on the lattes” savings point – if the OP had a 25 dollar a week Starbucks habit and quit it to save the money, after one year she would have saved 1300 dollars… so she still wouldn’t be able to afford to be properly courteous on the two flights per year that she does.

          • Freq Flyer May 14, 2014, 4:54 pm


            Look at the numbers I quoted in my message upthread.

            These are not theoretical. They represent real numbers I paid for a real trip. I do this every year. I’ve crunched the numbers every which way. It’s money out of my bank account. I’ve been going to Europe once or twice a year for the past 25 years, in Coach and Business Class.

            It would take several years worth of saving $4/day to make up the difference for one trip.

          • admin May 15, 2014, 1:45 pm

            You are clearly missing the gist of my message. If you can reach your goal skipping a daily Starbucks latte, great. But if you need to forego manicures, pedicures, movie night once a week, or any other discretionary spending, you do it to afford to travel.

          • NostalgicGal May 14, 2014, 11:14 pm

            Try getting the affiliated airline credit card, use it like no tomorrow (pay bills with it then promptly pay it off and keep doing so) and rack up some miles to use for upgrades and perks. If I would have to fly more often (not so much any more) I would do this. I do have a CC that gives me cash back and I find I can indeed make it pay me handsomely every month with careful handling of using it to pay bills… even a small credit line at the start can be used this way to earn without it costing. Think of it as ‘plastic couponing’ or something.

      • Kendra May 14, 2014, 11:27 pm

        Oh, I would love to travel by train, but that seems more appropriate for vacations when the trip is as important as the destination. In the US, I’ve looked up so many interesting looking train trips that I hope to go on someday. Mom retires in a couple of years and we’ve been looking at several trips we would like to take. While trains look great, they don’t seem very practical if you are just trying to get to wherever you want to get to. They are also wicked expensive compared to air travel and, obviously, take a lot longer than air travel. I think each form of travel has it’s strengths and weaknesses and each is more appropriate than the other in given situations.

    • Carol Ann May 14, 2014, 8:20 am

      I have to disagree with your presumption that no one has suffered. I have severe back and neck problems from a car accident and was forced to sit twisted to the side by a very heavy neighbor spilling into my seat. Sitting that way for three hours caused a serious flare-up of my issues, to the point where I had to go the hospital while on my trip.

      • Kendra May 14, 2014, 11:30 pm

        Oh, Carol Ann, that is horrible. It really sux that your vacation was spoiled like that. But I have to ask, if you were so squished, why didn’t you ask a flight attendant to help you find a better seat? Nobody should have to be that uncomfortable when traveling.

    • Tracy May 14, 2014, 9:51 am

      I think it’s very rude of you to outright call many of the posters here liars. Note that you said you are a 6′ tall, 220lb man. Do you really think that others were as willing to push you around as much as they might a smaller woman? I’m betting that every time someone sat next to you, they avoided pushing into you figuring you were already uncomfortable and/or were intimidated by you.

  • Anonymous May 13, 2014, 7:00 pm

    Some previous posters have brought up a good point about business travel, emergencies, et cetera. Suppose Portly Portia (another person who I just made up) was travelling for business, and her company would only pay for one seat, or she was travelling to visit a sick relative, or she was moving to another country altogether, and had to fly there? The other passengers on the plane wouldn’t necessarily know, or care, whether this larger woman was travelling out of necessity, or if she was just going on vacation. Even if it was a vacation, some people save up for years to be able to do that, even with just one standard seat per person, and as I said before, buying two seats doesn’t necessarily guarantee that those two seats will be adjacent, AND a previous poster had a good point about how the airline seats are designed with “one per customer” in mind–they’re curved to fit around an average person’s posterior. Good idea in theory, but it stops being such a good idea when the posterior in the seat is larger than average, and/or spread over two seats, or when the seat is actually too small to fit even an average-sized person in the first place.

    • PsychoKitten May 14, 2014, 11:18 am

      lol, I have an overweight kitty named Portia. Thank you for the new nickname! 😀

  • Caroline May 13, 2014, 7:22 pm

    I’ve flown a fair amount while fat, and it’s not a comfortable situation to be in. Seats are getting smaller (this is fact, people) and other travelers are getting more and more intolerant of fat people. Considering that obesity has been correlated with lower income levels, I think it’s safe to say that expecting fat people to lose weight, fly first class, buy another ticket, or take extra time off of their jobs to bus or train it in order to do a small bit if traveling is unacceptable. Am I supposed to tell my family “sorry, can’t make it to grandmas funeral because I can only barely afford one seat”? That’s the solution? No. You have a problem with the size of the seats, take it up with the airline. It’s not like fat people want extra roomy super comfy seats just for them. No, they want the same thing everyone else gets: a seat that fits them.

    Before you all go into a tangent about how people should lose weight or not fly, I’d like you to take a moment to do some research on the success rates of weightloss plans. I’ll tell you right now, they’re a lot lower than you think. Most people who do achieve long term weightloss have to work on it every single moment of every single day. As a small business owner, as well as an enthusiastic gamer, backpacker, traveler, and dog owner, I can tell you that my life is already full up. I can’t take on another project, especially not one with the sort of maintenance required by long term weightloss, and especially when there is no guarantee that my efforts will pay off.

    In the meantime, if I want to go somewhere, chances are I’m going to be spilling into someone’s seat. Gotta problem with that? Take it up with the airlines. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out how to sit still for several hours with various pieces of plastic seat jabbing at my insides, while putting up with the smug irritation if the person next to me that I will be unwillingly touching.

    • MISSMINUTE May 14, 2014, 2:24 am

      You’re very right. The long term rate of obese people losing weight and keeping it off for five years – based on meta studies over several decades – is less than one percent. It’s shocking how few people know this.

    • Ellie May 14, 2014, 3:38 am

      But…nobody said to lose weight. That wasn’t said here. Please do us here the favor of not lashing out about something nobody told you to do.

      Also, I HAVE had to say: Sorry, I cannot make the funeral because I can’t afford to fly there. Life isn’t fair. You can’t pay for what is needed, you can’t do it.

      I won’t actually bother to say whether my “I can’t afford to be there” moment was based on a need for one seat or two. Because it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t pay to be on that plane.

      Jumping from this so-far civil discussion to telling us all to go research weight loss success rates (??? really? ) is unnecessary escalation. I suggest that it’s not just the “other travelers” you dismiss with such blithe discrimination who are being intolerant.

      • Caroline May 14, 2014, 10:34 am

        ok, to be clear: I can (and did) afford one seat to go see my family, for my Grandmothers funeral, because I get to see them maybe once very 5-10 years. You think I should sacrifice that time because I might make another person uncomfortable, while I am myself uncomfortable? No, not gonna happen.

        “escalating” it to talk about weight loss? Isn’t that really what this is all about? Fat tax so others don’t have to be exposed to our fat. We have to pay extra because we are too lazy to take care of ourselves? I mean really, isn’t that the underlying theme here? “Regular” sized people aren’t nearly so slovenly, so they are the ones who deserve to only have to pay for one seat?????

        Just try to think about the message you are sending.

        • Ellie May 14, 2014, 12:57 pm

          None of your statements here were said by me. I am not sending any such messages.

        • Lera99 May 15, 2014, 12:31 pm

          Wow! Talk about trying to be offended.

          This isn’t about a “fat tax” or fat being viewed as slovenly.

          This is about taking responsibility for your own travel.

          A plane ticket entitles you to one 17 inch seat. If you cannot fit in that seat – it is YOUR responsibility to make other arrangements like buying a 2nd seat (now you have 34 inches) or a first class seat (now you have 26 inches).

          And yes, if you cannot afford your own accommodations then you can’t afford to fly.

          Let’s say I had to travel with an air canister that couldn’t fit under the seat in front of me. So now I need to purchase a 2nd seat for my oxygen tank. Then a relative dies unexpectedly and I can only afford one ticket. Is it ok for me to ask the stranger in the seat next to me to hold my air tank on their lap the entire flight?

          Of course not! It is very sad that I will not be able to fly out for the funeral. But part of being an adult is realizing that sometimes you simply don’t have the money to do the things you would like.

          So if your hips or shoulders mean you cannot fit into the 17 inch seat – it’s not fair to ask your neighbor to allow you to sit partially on their lap any more than it would be fair to ask them to hold an oxygen tank for you.

          This isn’t about fat hate.

          I’m a really fat lady (5’4″ 330lbs). And because of my size, I buy two tickets when I fly. When I have to fly for work, our travel agency books 2 tickets for me.

          I have a niece in Seattle who will be 2 in October. I haven’t met her yet because I am still saving up to afford the 2 coach tickets to get there.

          That doesn’t mean I’ve been discriminated against by society because I’m fat. It means I’m an adult who understands that it is my responsibility to pay for the space I need when traveling.

          • NostalgicGal May 15, 2014, 8:27 pm

            Bravo. Hope you manage to see that niece by her birthday time. 🙂

    • Anonymous May 14, 2014, 6:58 am

      @Caroline–Leaving aside the “weight loss” part of the equation, how healthy do you feel at your current size? I’m not having a go at you, but I believe that the reason why a lot of weight loss plans fail, is because people think of them in terms of “weight loss,” and “short-term diet,” and “deprivation,” and “how can I burn as many calories as quickly as possible?”; rather than “What kind of exercise do I like to do?”; and “Maybe I can have fun learning to cook healthy meals.” I know that this sounds a bit fanciful, but it really isn’t. I was overweight or obese from about ages 8-20 or 21, because, from my experiences in public school gym classes (team sports, mandatory running, competition, pain, humiliation, teacher-sanctioned bullying from the other kids which I somehow deserved for being less athletic), I believed that I didn’t like physical activity…..until I re-joined the gym as an adult, realized that I could pick what I wanted to do, started exercising on my own, by working out on the machines and swimming, and lost weight. Later on, I discovered yoga, and now I teach it. Within the past year or so, I’ve also discovered Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing, Gravity, and Body Works Plus Abs (fancy name for a weights class). As for eating healthy, I gradually developed a taste for it over time, and now, my favourite food (and standard breakfast) would probably have to be a fruit smoothie with spinach blended into it. However, I still allow myself treats every now and then, so I don’t feel like I can NEVER have, say, Skittles, or a piece of dark chocolate, or whatever; I just account for it later by having a lighter dinner, or working out a bit harder the next day.

      I’m still not thin, but I’m much smaller than I was in my days of sedentary living and junk food, and much fitter as well–I can do a cartwheel, I can make it through a 60-minute Zumba class without feeling exhausted at the end, I can do many advanced yoga poses, and I even run voluntarily from time to time, often with my dog. Anyway, my point is, weight loss plans often don’t work, because people can’t maintain them, because they try to shoehorn themselves into rigid, punitive, “all or nothing” ideals that aren’t realistic, but health plans CAN work, because even though you’re putting aside time for exercise and preparing healthy food, there’s still some leeway built in for special circumstances like holidays, etc., and you don’t have to beat yourself up if you’re not perfect. So, with that approach, the weight loss will follow.

      Anyway, threadjack over. Back to the issue at hand.

      • Caroline May 14, 2014, 10:36 am

        Wow, exercise and eating well? I’ve never heard of that before. You’ll have to excuse my sarcasm, but your diatribe was more than a little condescending. Go forth, read some blogs (Dances with Fat is a great one, and the Fat Nutritionist is another one). I don’t have the energy to once again explain how I eat mindfully, exercise in ways that make me feel good, and am as healthy as an ox.

        • Anonymous May 14, 2014, 12:10 pm

          Caroline, that’s great–I’m glad you eat healthy and exercise already. I wasn’t trying to be condescending either, and I have read some of those blogs. I myself am somewhere between a size 14 and a size 16, and I agree with you about exercising for fun, and eating mindfully and thinking about whether you’re hungry or not. In fact, it sounds as if we’re on the same wavelength here–both healthy, but our “natural weight” is bigger than what society says it should be, but that’s okay. I only asked you how healthy you felt at your size, because I didn’t know, because I don’t know you–you didn’t tell us that in your previous post. But, I’m really glad to hear that your answer is “healthy as an ox,” because a lot of people, of all different sizes, can’t honestly say the same thing.

          • Caroline May 14, 2014, 2:17 pm

            it’s a pretty intrusive question. you know that, right?

          • NostalgicGal May 14, 2014, 11:17 pm

            And here I thought it was the airlines that keep making the seats smaller, is the issue? So much smaller that there are fewer and fewer people that can afford to purchase the seats they are providing…. we need to take the issue to the AIRLINES that do this to us.

        • Lera99 May 15, 2014, 12:54 pm

          Wow, you have just named two of the blogs that caused me to leave the Fat Acceptance movement. Their blatant disregard for actual science is mind boggling.

          Also, Dances With Fat was completely out of line when she participated in the Seattle Marathon. Her self entitled attitude causing volunteers to wait around for an additional 4 HOURS just so she could get a medal and say “See, I can be fat and complete a marathon” was beyond the pale.

          No one is asking about your “fitness” when it comes to airplane seats.

          If you are a 6’4″ 300lb rugby player or if you are a 5’3″ 300lbs disabled veteran – either way your are going to be too big for the seat regardless of your fitness level.

          All they are asking is for you to stay on your own side of the arm rest. And if you cannot – it is your responsibility to to find an alternative (don’t fly, buy 2 coach seats, buy a 1st class seat, travel with a buddy who won’t mind you spilling over into their seat, etc…)

      • Kendra May 14, 2014, 1:51 pm

        “I can make it through a 60-minute Zumba class”

        So can I! And…..I’m 5′ 3″ and in the neighborhood of 220 lbs. (at least that was where I was 3 months ago when I decided to stop making myself crazy over a stupid number) I can also outdance my soon to be daughter (who is a size 0 and very healthy) on Dance Central 3 and kick my son’s butt on Disney Adventures. I’m generally very healthy, I’m just a bit fluffy. Size does not necessarily equal unhealthy. Also, not that long ago, those of us with a “little more lovin” would have been the sex symbols, and the twiggy’s would have been getting the sideway looks.

        • AD May 14, 2014, 10:55 pm

          Thank you, Kendra. That did bear saying.

        • Devil's Advocate May 15, 2014, 11:36 am

          I agree and disagree with your post. First, I applaud your cardiovascular stamina and the fact that you seem to be working to keep it up. However, while skinny people can be unhealthy just as fat people can unhealthy, it does discount the fact that being fat is unhealthy. First, in women, more fat means more estrogen which can increase your likelihood of cancer. Second, the extra pounds put extra stress on your heart, bones, and circulatory system. Lastly, the “fat” must go somewhere–typically leading to deposits on your heart, liver, and other organs. In short–monitor your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure and try to get the extra weight off. While beauty is subjective, health is not.

      • Devil's Advocate May 15, 2014, 11:42 am

        Once again the admin is spot on, and I wish her thinking in this case was the same in all those who travel.

        I’m sorry, but the product you are buying is a 17′ seat or whatever the seat size maybe. If that doesn’t FIT your body size, then buy another seat. This is no different then a shirt being 10 dollars in a size 8 yet 13 dollars in a size 2x. More fabric, more money. More plane room, more money. Pretty simple equation.

  • DannysGirl May 13, 2014, 9:26 pm

    What I’m reading is that if my body in any way, shape or form sticks out from the dimensions of my seat, then I should purchase a bigger seat or two seats. Is this correct? If my hips are 17 1/2″ and coach seats are 17″, then I must buy a second seat or upgrade? That seems really picky and unreasonable. Yes, someone who is obviously overweight should make an effort to accommodate other fliers, but where do we draw the line? I think it’s a bit entitled for anyone to expect not to be bumped or touched at all during a flight.

    • The Elf May 14, 2014, 7:30 am

      I think you’re exaggerating. If you can put the armrests down, you’re good. You might not be comfortable – who is? – but you’ll not “spill over”. That’s the line.

      • Rap May 14, 2014, 7:57 am

        Really tho, there are a number of people who have said if the other passenger is touching them, then they are stealing seat space they didn’t pay for and should buy a second seat.

        In fact the OP defines a pretty clear issue – they can put the armrests down which is the airline definition of “fit in your seat” but has large hips which protrude into the other seat UNDER the arm rests. A big hipped woman will do this. While the airline would likely never screen her for being too fat to fly without a second seat, the OP is being told that the armrests going down is not good enough and in order to not be rude, she should buy two seats.

        • The Elf May 15, 2014, 9:50 am

          That’s more of a judgement call on the part of OP and people in similar situations. DannysGirl asked “where do you draw the line?” The armrest. The armrest is the line. I think a case can be made for rudeness if you “spill” significantly under or over the armrest (which would depend not only on the body structure of the person in question but also the design of the armrest), but if you can’t get that armrest down at all, it’s a much clearer case. With most people, if they can get the armrest down even if there is “spill over” under the armrest from hips/thigh it isn’t by a large amount. You won’t be doing the seat-and-a-half thing, you’ll be doing the seat-and-a-couple-of-inches thing. Still not pleasant, and the person might be more comfortable in first class or in two seast, but it is the difference between the “encroached” seat being usable or not by someone of average size. I’ve had someone spill over onto me by just a bit with the arm rest down and, while not pleasant, was tolerable. The time when the person next to me could not get the armrest down and I was wedged against the window was not tolerable and I suffered back pain for it. On that same flight, when the person next to my husband took literally a seat and a half (the armrest could not go down) and he had to stand, the seat he purchased was not usable by him.

          Also, the OP in her submission did not say if she could get the armrest down or not. I could see it going either way.

          I agree with some of your other posts where you point to lack of clear policy and consistent enforcement on the part of the airlines. There is much they could do to make this whole thing better for everyone, besides increasing the size of their seats (the true solution). The closest thing to industry standards we have is all about fitting into the seat with the armrest down, so that should be our rule of thumb to go by.

  • NostalgicGal May 13, 2014, 9:35 pm

    If you can’t fit within the confines of your seat, then you need to buy more space. Whether it is plane, train, or bus. I’ve met ‘amoebas’ on all three. I fit my space, barely, in econo-sardine, but. Whether that is a ‘better class of seat’ for more width/space or buying more than one seat in the econoclass, it is up to you to fit the space or pay for the space you need. Airlines, buses, trains, have all been making the seats smaller over the years, true; take it up with THEM if you don’t fit the space they offer at a price that’s less than outrageous.

    Meantime, I’m not a small woman but I can usually fit in the econoseating offered on most airlines. Times I have to fly and I couldn’t (I’ve been a BBW at times) and once I had casts on from knees down… I had to buy enough space or go some other way.

    It might actually be to an advantage to look up one of those airline credit cards; and earn miles and perks that way; so when it comes to the few times a year you have to fly, you can afford upgrades and such, just by running stuff through the credit card, ‘earn them’. Someone suggested it to me but I no longer have to fly very often so the incentive isn’t as great.

  • Tendie May 13, 2014, 9:49 pm

    Buy first class or don’t fly? Buy two seats or don’t fly? Forget that. I have been every size from 6-22, and I will never pay absurd charges for first class, nor will I buy two seats. It isn’t really my problem that the airlines want to squeeze us for every penny and make seats smaller, and cram more in.

    I usually book my seat in the last row, there are often two empty seats next to each other so I can sit next to one. Also if I sit on the aisle I can redistribute somewhat. But I don’t recall ever involuntarily touching someone sitting next to me with any part of my body.

    • crebj May 14, 2014, 7:40 pm

      Perhaps your neighbors were too polite to mention it.

  • Alli May 13, 2014, 9:54 pm

    I’m pretty small and I’ve been seated next to larger passengers on a few occasions, sometimes solely because I’ll fit.

    Here’s something you may not realize: the seat is not designed for someone to scrunch up to the other side of the seat. It sets your back all wrong. Every single time I’ve been in this situation I’ve had back pain afterwards. You’re not just taking up part of my seat, you’re making it impossible for me to sit in it properly. So it’s really more than just a minor inconvenience.

    • Caroline May 14, 2014, 10:38 am

      We’ll try to remember that as pieces of the seat are jabbing uncomfortably into us and causing lasting pain as well.

      • Margo May 15, 2014, 3:07 pm

        Why does being uncomfortable entitle you to knowingly cause pain to someone else?

  • Heather May 14, 2014, 12:49 am

    I fly internationally a LOT, and I’m not talking about Canada to Washington international. 10 hour flights on average. I’m only 5’10” but my leg inseam is 36 inches so you can imagine that I require a fair amount of space.
    I always book through expedia, and with almost every airline you do have the option to choose your seat when you book. It isn’t guaranteed that you’ll get those seats, but many airlines will allow you to check in online 24 hours before your flight to be sure. That’s your solution if you book two seats for yourself. You can also view the seat map before you buy your ticket, so if the plane is super full you can call ahead to customer service and explain your dilemma. Get to the airport early if you can’t check in online and the gate agent will do their best to accommodate you.
    Some airlines, like KLM, offer something called Economy Comfort Plus which is an inexpensive upgrade offering more legroom and recline, but I’m not sure about the seat width.
    Someone mentioned Emirates; they’re a great option. I was once on one of their new Dreamliner planes and the MIDDLE SEAT was wide enough for my broad-shouldered hubby and my spidery legs. Astounding.
    All that being said, being better than average in size is not something a person can always control, so I’d rather see that than someone who didn’t bother to shower before the flight or who brings an onion sandwich on board. My least favourite seat mate is the frequent-tinkler who insists on a window seat. THAT is inconsiderate. Being large and doing your best not to encroach is just one of those things.
    Good luck to you on future flights!

  • Charlotte Vera May 14, 2014, 2:53 am

    Wow, I’m really surprised to see so many people advocating for either first class or an extra seat. I’m a reasonably small person who would never see her family (or my kids their grandparents) if we didn’t fly. When flying I expect to be inconvenienced. I know it’s crazy expensive, and I’m poor (graduated university into the recession). I’m grateful when I’m able to travel at all, and I’m more than willing to be inconvenienced forth privilege of travel. It’s a discomfort for fifteen hours tops (yes, I live in New Zealand and my family’s in Canada — that’s a long flight). As humans we spill out onto each other’s lives and spaces all the time, aircrafts aren’t any different, whether it be because of size, a screaming child, BO, or any of the other thugs mentioned here. Forcing people to go into debt paying for luxuries they can’t afford or forgo family time, a necessary business trip, etc., seems rather selfish. It reminds me of the time when someone asked for cheap, non-cooked appetiser idea on this site and people kept suggesting cheese platters — not cheap! Everyone has a different budget.

    • Margo May 15, 2014, 3:20 pm

      I expect to be inconvenienced. But sitting next to someone who encroaches significantly into my seat is much more than an inconvenience. It is acutely uncomfortable, particularly if the flight is a long one. And it isn’t just for the duration of the flight – it can leave you in pain for weeks afterwards. And it isn’t always possible to do anything when you are on the flight. If it’s full , it’s full.

      Yes, I expect to be inconvenienced when i travel. I don’t expect, and should not be expected, to have to tolerate serious discomfort or pain because someone else has *knowingly* booked an inadequate seat.

      Some years ago, I booked a holiday to the USA (I’m in Europe) On the return flight, I wound up seated next to a very large individual, and spent the entire flight twisted painfully to fit in the little space left to me. I was in paid for weeks afterwards. Had it happened on the outbound flight, it would have ruined my holiday – I couldn’t comfortably drive for more than short trips, I slept badly, I couldn’t swim. As it was, I had to give up a trip to visit my parents because I could not manage the 3 hour drive needed, and could not afford the train fare.

      And yes, I think that person, who must have known that they could not fit into a single seat was incredibly selfish and rude. I had saved for over a year for that trip, and made a lot of sacrifices, because my budget did not run to transatlantic travel.

  • Fliss May 14, 2014, 3:18 am

    What some of you don’t seem to get is airlines deliberately overbook flights. Approx 10% of people who book a flight don’t turn up to use it, so airlines sell more seats than actually exist so planes that fly are full, or it costs them money.

    In which case, you can buy all the extra tickets you like, but when those seats are empty with 40 minutes to go, the airline is going to sell them to standby passengers, and you’ll have someone next to you anyway.

    And travel in Oz is arduous at the best of times. 16 hours on a plane, anywhere up to 36 hours on a bus. No, I’m not making those numbers up; I’m probably erring on the side of caution in some cases. So, if you live in Broome, and your family lives in Sydney, are you never ever to travel and see them because you might discomfort someone else?

    • Ellie May 15, 2014, 12:44 am

      if you bought the seat, it is already sold and the airline has no reason to sell it to someone else. they got paid for it.

      • Kendra May 15, 2014, 8:03 pm

        Yes, but the airlines overbook flights. To try to ensure full flights. It seems that the airline feels it is a lesser evil to usurp your second seat than to remove a customer from the plane. Yes, they will shoehorn that poor person into the space that’s left of your second seat. That person also paid for their ticket, and will possibly be annoyed with you for encroaching on their space. I think the airlines think that you’ll be getting a refund, so what’s the big deal.

  • Reboot May 14, 2014, 8:19 am

    Honestly, as a fat person, for my own comfort if nothing else I’d prefer to buy two tickets \if there was a guarantee\ that I’d get those two seats, and get them together. I don’t like being squished up next to other people and I don’t really like touching strangers, so having two seats to myself would be perfect, but if an airline is just going to sell the “extra” seat, what’s the point?

  • Gabriele May 14, 2014, 8:19 am

    I hadn’t flown much before I took my first trip to France. The seats were larger than in the US but while I was fortunate to get a flight with some empty seats (and the cabin crew moved me so there was an empty seat next to me) I was aware that 11 hours in a single seat was cruel and unusual punishment for me AND esp. for the person next to me.
    One flight (I started going every year) was with a charter company whose usual customers bought tours…sardines in a can would at least have had tomato sauce between them! To make matters worse, the flight back was worse. Another airline had gone out of business with customers stuck in France…they were given seats on the airline I was on and they brought in even smaller seats. I had been in line with several teachers so when we were herded into our section (making ‘moo’ or ‘baa’ sounds) they were very kind and let me take the window…since we were delayed 6 hours waiting for the right plane, we were all exhausted and fell asleep. When I woke up the woman next to me semi-apologised and said she had fallen asleep using my breast as her pillow. We all had a laugh about that and were just thankful the flight was over.
    I learned two things: Be careful when booking with a charter airline (the often sell odd seats(left over from the tour groups) and yes, they do have less space and lower fares and (more important)
    If you declare yourself to need a second seat for a medical reason (in my case I could simply state ‘poor leg circulation requiring additional leg room’) the second seat is often much reduced in cost. I asked Air France and they would honor that and since I had already flown once with Air Tahiti Nui and preferred them, I was very happy to hear they also would honor the request.
    This is my own personal recommendation:
    Find an airline that serves your flight needs. Find a travel agency that represents them, get on a frequent flyer mailing list (even if you don’t earn points, you will be recognized) and look for an agent who will handle your flights. With mine, not only would he book the seats and those were ASSIGNED seats but when there was a sale on, he’d get me reduced fares too!
    There were a couple times where I heard nasty comments about how I had gotten a ‘free seat’ and I would make it a point to tell the person(s) that I paid for the seat, ti was not free. One time when I couldn’t get the two window side seats and sat in the central seating the next person over kept trying to use my extra seat for her convenience…”surely you won’t mind”…I did…when she wanted to use the seat for all her and her husband’s personal items…and her legs intruding into my leg space…
    It was a bit of a change–the shoe being on the other foot as it were…I paid for two seats and someone with one wanted to take away some of my second seat–but it did make me very glad I had the second seat and wasn’t intruding on someone else’s space.
    Air Tahiti is the airline of the country and as part of their culture they don’t descriminate against less-than-slender people. People coming from Tahiti (who couldn’t afford 1st class), often entertainers, would be given the bulkhead seats in the center seating area with consideration given for their size. Some of the flight attendants were less than svelte which made for a much more relaxed ambiance (and they changed into more casual dresses once they were on the plane).
    I can’t afford to go to France anymore (I am still very thankful for the 10 years of vacations there–all on a budget, I saved all year and didn’t take any other vacations) but in California (where my travelling is done now) I rent a new car (mine is old) and just plan on extra time. Sometimes when I add the time to the airport (1 hour), the time for check-in (min. of 2 hours) the time waiting to board (who knows!), the flight (often the shortest of these times), waiting to get off, waiting for luggage, waiting to get a rental car…it ends up being not that much less than getting in the car (getting the rental the day before so it’s all packed and ready to go) and driving there.
    I know driving doesn’t work for everyone.
    About the ‘medical’ second seat…I’m sure a doctor would write a ‘Rx’ if needed…

  • Heather May 14, 2014, 8:23 am

    A lot of people are pointing out that airlines might bump the second ticket or try to seat the person in two different rows if 2 seats are purchased.
    I’m pretty sure that if you book directly with a travel agent or on the phone with the airline instead of online or through a third party booking sight, they will make a note that 1 person is purchasing two seats. It would be extraordinarily foolish for them not to take that into consideration – not to mention very bad for business. Plus, if you check in early, you’re much less likely to be separated or bumped. It’s probably not the most comfortable solutions, and you must make sure that your plane will have armrests that go up, but it’s still probably the most economical solution.

  • Alicia May 14, 2014, 8:50 am

    Ok So if you do not buy extra seat or room yet do not fit within the confines of your seat and are planning on expanding onto your neighbors seat by 1/3 a seat. Now in your ow of 3 people lets assume all 3 of you do the same selfish thing and assume you deserve 1/3rd of your neighbors seat. That now has 3 people who take up 4 seats worth of space trying unsuccessfully to sit in 3 seats space.
    I fit in a seat but not with really any extra hip or shoulder room( I’m 17 inches across sitting down in both hip and shoulder) I have enough room for me but I don’t have room for others in my seat space. My dad is overweight and needs at least 21 inches and as such flies first class as he uses his credit card miles for upgrades.

  • Wild Irish Rose May 14, 2014, 9:08 am

    Admin, is there a reason that my comment isn’t posted? I know I submitted one. Are you mad at me or something? 🙂

    • admin May 14, 2014, 11:14 am

      Uhhh, what comment? All pending comments through yesterday have been approved.

      • Wild Irish Rose May 15, 2014, 9:25 am

        Hmm, that’s weird. Well, my comment ran along the lines of advising OP to cut back on other expenses throughout the year so she can afford to upgrade when she travels. No big deal!

        • admin May 15, 2014, 1:32 pm

          I still get random comments that have only a small case “t” in them. It’s no discriminator of commenters either…happens to a wide range of posters, veterans and newbies alike. I haven’t the foggiest idea why it does that but I delete them.

  • tasryn May 14, 2014, 9:26 am

    I just wanted to address one issue someone brought up about how people don’t have to pay for lap babies and how that us unfair. I have a 22 month old and I DO pay for her. What people fail to undersatnd is that although you don’t have to pay the price of the ticket for a child of under 2 you DO have to pay all taxes and fees associated with the seat your are purchasing which often make up to almost as much as the cost of the seat itself.

    In addition, to get more space for the 3 of us, my husband and I recently tried to BUY a 3rd ticket for our daughter to get a guaranteed 3 seat and the airline refused to let us until she turned 2. It wasn’t even an option. So there are those of us who are willing to pay for extra space for our children so as to not inconvenience others. We also ensure we get an aisle seat so if I have to get up and down to change my child’s diaper I can and we work with the flight attendants to find a empty row of 3 if available so we don’t annoy others with our active todder. Plus we travel in the day time hours (NOT evening when our child will be grumpy and tired) to ensure she is in as good a mood as possible so as to not inconveniece others with her crying.

    What I’m trying to say is that we can’t help having a small child just like a lot of people can’t help their weight. But we do make an effort to minimise the impact having our child can have on others as it is not fair to others who have paid for their seat to have to get up and down multiples times during the flight, or have a toddler moving around and not staying in their seat or have a grumpy toddler screaming as it’s bed time and there is a lot of activity going on around them preventing them from sleeping. By the same token someone who is larger should make every effort to not negatively impact others by flying at less popular times, selecting seats that are less popular to minimise the potential for someone sitting next to them, asking a flight attendant to find a seat for them that does not have someone in the middle seat or flying first class/purchasing a second seat. I recognise that sometimes even with best efforts people can’t help being crammed in next to someone. But I do have problems with some of the people in this discussion who make NO effort to negatively impact others because it’s apparently someone else’s problem if they are uncomfortable.

    • Rap May 14, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Well, here’s the thing. You can’t help having a small child? Really?

      Now more seriously, the fat person can’t help being fat, and you can’t help having a child. Why does the fat person have to buy a second seat to be courteous while you just have to pay taxes to add a 22 month old lap child into the mix. We have to pay taxes on our tickets too, but you are still paying less and using space you don’t pay for.

      A quick perusal of US based airlines, Us Airways, American, Delta, Jetblue, and Southwest, does not show parents are *restricted* from buying a child under two their own ticket.

      I’m sure, speaking as a fat person myself, that most fat people aren’t delighted to hog up your space. And I raised the lap child issue because in the previous airline discussion, the defense of the lap child policy was “flying is expensive and we couldn’t afford it if we had to buy a seat for the baby”.

      But now its being expressly stated, if you can’t afford it without inconvienencing others, you should not fly. Lap children inconvienence others. Are we deeming parents who can’t afford to fly unless the child is on their lap as rude? Since we are calling *any* spillover (no matter what the airlines policies are) a reason for a person buy a second seat, a first class seat or say “i can’t afford to fly”?

      • Kendra May 14, 2014, 11:40 pm

        Actually RAP, I was just perusing the Southwest website and it turns out that parents are restricted from purchasing a seat for their under 2 year old child unless they have an FAA approved child safety seat. It can’t be just any car seat, it has to be FAA approved. The reasoning seems to be that the plane seats aren’t designed for the safety of children under 2. Though, to be honest, in the event of an accident I cannot see how sitting in parents lap could possibly be safer that sitting in a seat with a seatbelt on even if it is designed for adults. But that’s the FAA for you.

        • Rap May 15, 2014, 7:57 am

          Under the “if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t fly because you’re rudely inconveniencing others” criteria we’ve established, why is expecting a parent to outfit their child with an FAA approved seat unreasonable? Its surely less than the first class ticket a fat person is being told to buy. And Southwest is not saying “you can’t buy a ticket at all for a child under two” – Tasryn states it simply was not an option when in fact, it was. She just didn’t want to spend the money.

          Remember, the rule for the fat people is “spend more money for more space or else go to etiquette hell”. Parents of lap children apparently aren’t held to this criteria and don’t have to accept the shaming of “you chose to have a child, pay for it”. Tasryn chooses to not pay for her child because buying a ticket and possibly an approved car seat is more money than not buying a ticket and everyone else just has to accept being inconvenienced. How is this different from a fat person hogging too much space because they aren’t *required* to buy an extra seat? Remember, the OP is being told to buy an extra seat even though she meets airline criteria and can put the armrest down, because she’s inconveniencing others by not buying an extra seat. Parents with children under two CAN buy seats for their kids, funny, it just happens to cost. If we’re free to insist the OP needs to pony up the dough, why are parents allowed to pull this? They need to pony up too.

        • Rap May 15, 2014, 8:53 am

          And Btw my intent here is not to beat Tasryn or any other parent up over taking advantage of something the airline allows, but to point out how unfair it is that parents of small children are allowed to play the “well, we wouldn’t be able to fly if we had to pay for the child” card and not be shamed for being too cheap to pay for their kid, but a large person taking advantage of something the airline allows (OP can put the arm rests down, the airline is not requiring her to buy an extra ticket) really needs to be told how awful and rude they are and how no matter what the airline allows, the only decent thing they can do is pay double or not fly.

          And the justification, spoken or not, is that a fat person chooses to be fat. Well, parents choose to be parents – why do I have to sit in a coach row with two other grown adults and a thirty pound toddler crying and pawing me because its ok for parents to be too cheap to buy their kid a ticket and possibly a car seat? Why aren’t parents hearing “pay for your child or accept you’re too broke to see grandma. If you can’t afford to pay for your child’s seat, you should not be going anywhere.”?

          • Kendra May 16, 2014, 2:51 pm

            I absolutely agree with you, Rap in that it’s not rude to buy what the airlines are selling. Goose, gander, sauce.

      • Devil's Advocate May 15, 2014, 11:15 am

        I’m sorry, but if a child is sitting in my lap, what “extra space” are they using? Haven’t I paid for the space that is my lap? I am certainly not using space that I have not paid for. The child is taking up my lap not the person’s lap next to me. The child is sharing my seat (which is my choice), not the seat of my seatmate.

        A “fat” person buys an extra seat because they are encroaching on MY space. I pay for the 17 inches from ceiling to bottom of the space that my seat occupies, as does everyone else. If a piece of your body overlaps/spills/etc into my space–then you need to buy another seat.

        • Rap May 15, 2014, 1:54 pm

          I’ve sat with enough lap children that didn’t belong to me to tell you that they very rarely sit confined to the parents lap. I’ve had lap children kick me, wipe their soiled hands on my jacket and grab my laptop. I consider that “enroaching on my space” – its a piece of their body spilling into my seat, therefore their parents need to buy them their own seat.

          Or is “we couldn’t fly if we had to pay for an extra seat for junior so everyone sitting near us will have to deal” not rude? Because remember – the OP here, like parents with lap children, is not violating any airline policy yet the OP is expected to double their expense while parents with a lap child are allowed to impose on their fellow passengers and are not bluntly told “you made that child, buy a seat for it or don’t fly.”

          • Devil's Advocate May 16, 2014, 3:23 pm

            Then you have dealt with lap children that should be treated like fat people. Like I said it’s a simple equation. If the parent can’t keep their child in their lap out of your space–they should be told they are going to have to buy to seats. If you can’t keep your body out of my space, then you should have to pay for two seats.

            I think the situations are the same, especially right now, considering there is no written policy regarding fat people. So whether it be lap children, body fluffiness, etc. if you aren’t within you space you need to buy more space.

            And, as a side note, I’ve had lap children on several flights and mine do NONE of the things you have listed. They sit in my lap and I keep them entertained (treats, tv, toys etc.) until the flight is over. That’s called parenting and being responsible for the space I (and my child) are taking up. I wish the large people I have been forced to sit next to would do the same.

    • Anonymous May 14, 2014, 12:28 pm

      Flying at less popular times is a good idea, but again, what if the larger person in question is flying on a business trip where the company books the flight and chooses the time, or what if the person is a member of a larger group (sports team, musical ensemble, etc.), where the flight was booked by the group organizer? Are they just supposed to fly separately without the rest of their group, miss part of the trip or arrive early and arrange separate accommodation for themselves, and pay a higher price for the privilege?

      • NostalgicGal May 14, 2014, 11:29 pm

        Then there’s the case when weather turns UGLY and is messing up schedules; stranding people, and packing flights….

        I sympathize with those that can’t fit those sardine seats, but. I need my space and I do not want someone flowing into mine; it will cause me issues (physical-pain-possibly not able to walk off the flight AND a long recovery). We need to get the airlines to address it directly, be consistent somehow, and quit shrinking the seats. I’ve heard of some auditioning ‘saddle seats’ where you are semi standing; to be able to pack more people into the same plane…. *shakes head*

  • starstruck May 14, 2014, 10:28 am

    i understand your predicament , and i know traveling is rather expensive, but ask yourself this. what if the person sitting next to you leaned over in such a way, that they were halfway in your seat? or laid themselves over and across you to sleep? trust me , your being partially in their seat feels just as violating. there is just something about personal space . take an inch of it from someone and they act like you are taking money from their wallet. understandably so. i feel your pain about being unable to afford it. but unless you can afford to buy two seats, you really shouldn’t fly at all hun.

  • Angel May 14, 2014, 11:06 am

    I agree with the admin. Maybe not in the OP’s particular case–those numbers are not all that high. But once my DH had to sit next to a man weighing easily 400 pounds. He took up his own seat and half my DH’s seat too. My DH is about 5’6″ and weighs about 150. If it was a 2 hour flight it would have been one thing–but this was a 5 hour flight! Tell me how is this fair to my DH? He had black and blue marks all over him when he got home. I think that if you weight that much, book the extra seat. I do think that airlines should offer discounts for this–because it isn’t fair to have to pay double for one person–however, it’s not fair to crush your seatmate for 5 hours straight.

  • Emily May 14, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I completely agree with with Admin. I’m not small myself. I’m 5’7″ and a size 16/18, but I’ve fit into every seat I’ve flown in. I’ve been sat next to small people and large people. I’ve been made uncomfortable, but I’ve always dealt with it. On the other hand, my fiance is very normal sized, fits in his seat with extra room. But he has a very serious back issue that causes him constant pain. When he is sat next to someone that is larger, it doesn’t just inconvenience him, it exacerbates his condition and causes him unbelievable pain. I always switch him seats if I can, but it is NOT even close to fair that he has to go through this when it can be simply solved by purchasing two seats. No, I have no idea why OP is flying, but she doesn’t know what problems her seatmate next to her has either. And her size, fair or not, should be her problem alone.

  • Ragen Chastain May 14, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Let me start by saying that she, and every other fat flyer, is allowed to believe and do whatever she wants. If she believes that “not perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices” means paying more than a thin person for the same customer experience that’s her right. My issue here is that she is saying that, as an etiquette expert, she “firmly believes” that doing so is good etiquette.

    To agree with her, we have to believe the idea that some people deserve seats that they fit into and others don’t- such that those who are fat, muscular, tall, broad-shouldered etc. should have to pay more than people who aren’t fat, muscular, tall, or broad-shouldered to get the same customer experience – specifically transportation from one place to another in a seat that accommodates us. (I’ll point out that while many fat people have been thrown off planes or forced to buy a second seat for being fat, there is no policy about tall, broad-shouldered, or muscular passengers and I’ve never heard of one of them getting thrown off a plane or asked to purchase a second seat for taking up “more than their space” which says to me that in reality this isn’t so much about space or touching a fellow passenger, but about the prejudice against people who are fat.)

    I happen to fit in one seat (my fat goes front to back more than side to side.) That gives me some privilege when it comes to flying and I think the appropriate use of that privilege is to say “Why aren’t all the passengers getting the same experience that I get, and how can I hep them fight for that” rather than saying “obviously people my size and smaller deserve a better/cheaper experience than people who are larger than us or shaped differently.”

    The idea of choosing our behavior so that we don’t “perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices” suggests that if people choose to stereotype us or hold prejudices against us, we are responsible for “solving” that by mollifying our bigots with our behavior. The problem with stereotyping and prejudice is the stereotyping and prejudice, not the victims of it. The solution to prejudice is neither weight loss nor paying twice what our bigots pay for the same service. People are allowed to hold personal stereotypes and prejudice but they should not be allowed to institutionalize them and the groups who are the victims of their bigotry are not required by the rules of etiquette to participate in our own oppression to make them happy.

    This argument seems to me to also be an extension of the “good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy.” “I am willing to pay twice as much as the person next to me for the same customer experience so that I don’t perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices” sounds very much to me like the way that many fat people feel that we have to justify our requests to be treated with basic human respect (ie: I have a juicer, I exercise, and I only eat vegetables that were dried with a towel knitted by someone’s Nana, so I deserve to not be bullied.) Both are a version of “I’m not like those other fat people so I deserve to be treated better than you would treat them” I think that’s bs in any guise.

    The belief that fat, tall, muscular or broad-shouldered people are obligated to buy two seats or pay for first class or we don’t deserve to fly, has a number of ramifications. If an employer wants to fly candidates to a job interview it will cost them twice as much to interview one of us, if a job involves travel it will cost the company twice as much to hire one of us, if we want one of the jobs that helps us engage in activism or puts us in front of people (speaker, performer, stand-up comic etc.) it will costs venues twice as much to book us. People who make this argument are saying that it’s acceptable not just to say that fat, tall, muscular or broad-shouldered people need to have twice as much money as others to take a vacation, but also to do our jobs, attend a wedding, graduation, or even a funeral.

    I think that if you don’t want civil rights, then you fight for everyone to have them, and once they do you choose not to avail yourself of them. Nobody is saying that if airlines give all passengers the same experience regardless of size that she has to take them up on it, she is still welcome to purchase two seats or a first class seat. I think what isn’t cool is to make a decision that just because you can afford to pay twice as much, or because it’s ok with you that you don’t get the same customer experience as people who don’t look like you, you suggest that good etiquette requires that everyone who looks like you agrees with that. It seems to me that she might be getting internalized oppression confused with etiquette.

    As a member of a few groups that many people choose to stereotype and hold prejudices against I understand that those people would prefer that I at least shut up and, even better, if I wouldn’t mind being participating in my own oppression by doing whatever they think I should do. In this case that includes paying twice as much as them for the same experience, or acting like the problem is that fat, tall, muscular and broad-shouldered people exist, and not the fact that they built planes as if we didn’t, and make policies as if we don’t deserve the same experience they give passengers who aren’t fat, tall, muscular or broad-shouldered. As an activist, I’m completely unwilling to do that. People are allowed to be prejudiced and suggest that they deserve a different experience than I do because we look different, but I do not have to participate in that, and I won’t.

    Ragen Chastain

    • admin May 16, 2014, 7:46 am

      This is precisely why I am not involved with any fat acceptance groups. The sense of entitlement that the world must adjust itself to accommodate me is not one I’m willing to endorse. It is not the airlines or the theater or any amusement park owners’ responsibility to give me something more than what is being sold, i.e. a seat in a specific but uniform size meant to fit “most” but not all. If I cannot fit into a 17-inch seat, I purchase what accommodates my needs without an expectation that others must loose money or give up any part of their purchased seat. If I am the size of two normal humans, I need the space of two normal humans. Lobby the airlines all you want but until there is a change in the size of affordable seats, one does not inflict your expectations of more space than you paid for on your unwitting and innocent seatmates next to you. My need to fly does not trump someone else’ expectation that if they paid for a full seat, they should get the use of it without my backside taking up a third of it.

    • Lera99 May 16, 2014, 10:47 am

      Welcome Ragen.

      You, Fat Nutritionist, and the Tumblr “This Is Thin Privilege” are the reasons I left the Fat Activist movement. Your disregard for science, self entitlement, and the way you play the Oppression Olympics are awful.

      When buying a plane ticket, you are not purchasing a service.
      You are shipping yourself from point A to point B.

      Just like the US Postal Service has flat rate boxes stating “We will ship anything that fits into this box for $X.” the airlines say “We will ship anyone who fits in this seat for $X”.

      But over-sized packages requires additional charges, because commercial flight is a business.

      The people running the business are looking at fuel costs (weight heavily affects fuel costs, it why they charge so much for over-weight baggage), maintenance, licensing, taxes, etc… They then figure out what people are willing to pay for airfare on average. They maximize the number of seats on the plane to allow for reasonable prices.

      People complain about how awful flying is today compared to when it was considered glamorous, but proportionally the ticket prices today are a LOT less than they used to be. Airlines have made seats smaller in order to make airfare cheaper for most people.

      So if you buy a single ticket to fly you have agreed to ship yourself in your 17 inch wide allocated space. If you know you won’t fit in those 17 inches and will spill over into your neighbor’s seat, you are basically expecting the stranger sitting next to you to subsidize your flight. Because you are an over-sized package but want to only pay the standard shipping cost.

      The stranger next to you paid for their 17 inch wide spot. That is their flat rate box.

      As an adult it is your responsibility to pay your own shipping. If you don’t fit into the 17 inch wide spot, then you have several options: buy a 2nd 17 inch wide spot, buy a first class ticket, fly with a buddy who is happy to let you spill over into their space, or don’t fly.

      This isn’t about discrimination.
      No one is saying “Fat people are disgusting and shouldn’t be allowed to fly!”
      They are saying “I paid for my 17 inch seat, and it isn’t fair for the stranger next to me to invade the space I’ve rented for this flight.”

      Think of it this way. The same landlord owns two properties next to each other.
      One property has a pool and costs an extra $200 a month to rent.
      The other property does not have a pool.

      The renters of the property without a pool start hopping the fence and swimming in their neighbor’s pool.
      The renters of the house with the pool protest, stating they pay for that pool.
      The fence hoppers start crying about “Discrimination!”, and “Just because they can’t afford to pay an extra $200 a month doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the right to swim like their neighbors, in fact EVERYONE should receive the same treatment regardless of their economic circumstances and not letting them swim is akin to racism!”

      In the same way, taking a business where weight plays a huge role in revenue (fuel costs), and then insisting that the airline is being discriminatory by having seats that won’t fit EVERYONE (from 90lbs – 900+lbs) is ridiculous.

      The plane has Z number of 17 inch wide shipping spaces.
      The airline figures the average weight that will be in each of those spaces plus the weight of the baggage for their fuel costs.
      When purchasing a coach ticket, you are renting a 17 inch wide space in which you will be shipped from point A to point B.

      If you KNOW you will not fit into your shipping compartment – it is your responsibility to rent the additional space you will need.

      This isn’t about “looking different” or “civil rights”.

      You talk a lot about paying double for the same service. But it’s NOT the same service.

      The contracted service is: you have rented a 17 inch wide location in which to be shipped from point A to point B.

      And you are stating: By not shipping someone that needs a 30 inch wide location for the same price the airlines are discriminating against tall, wide, and/or fat people!

      Your argument is a logical fallacy. You are equating two different levels of service as the same thing.

    • Alicia May 20, 2014, 9:05 am

      You keep using the phrase “deserve to fly” that is inflamatory and not what most of us who disagree with you are saying. Nobody deserves to fly. If you deserved to fly you would have wings. Instead due to neat engineering planes are a thing and we humans can fly using them. Since the ability to fly is sold in units 1 coach seat 1 business class seat 1 first class seat 1 private jet. You and anyone can buy any number of any of these units of flying ability. But for a tiny person to fly they will fit easy in 1 coach seat. Someone larger might not and have to go up in size in order to fit. So they might need to buy 2 coach or 1 business class, Someone even larger might need a first class seat , I know that a friends mom who is bedbound it took a private jet to move her.

  • Calypso May 14, 2014, 3:26 pm

    I’m a big (really big) person (I’ve been “pulled aside” when flying Southwest and gently told, as a POS, I needed to buy an extra seat. Since that happened, when I have had to fly, I always buy two economy or one Business or First (that’s only happened when flying with my partner, who doesn’t mind my spilling into his space.)

    Recently I needed to travel 1,ooo miles, a distance I would normally fly, and for the heck of it tried one of those websites that figures out the cost of your gas for a given trip. To drive, even with an overnight stay halfway in a decent motel, was SO much cheaper than flying—-and, as this point, I’m more comfortable in my car—– it was a no brainer. Of course, that only works if you have the time to drive 11 hours each way.

    • Anonymous May 14, 2014, 8:23 pm

      @Calypso–I know what you meant by the acronym “POS,” but it also means something else that I can’t repeat on this board. I wasn’t sure if you knew.

    • Kendra May 14, 2014, 11:43 pm

      POS? Person Of Size? Took me a minute to figure it out. I was getting ready to be all offended on your behalf. 😉